The Show of Violence

Timothy Chesters

in Ghost Stories in Late Renaissance France

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599806
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191723537 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

The Show of Violence

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Could ghosts be touched and, if so, were they susceptible to violence? Theological discussion of ghosts usually found in the negative, especially after Trent. But the neoplatonic tradition had long suggested otherwise, especially in the writing of the tenth-century Greek theologian, Michael Psellus. This chapter examines Psellus' reception in sixteenth-century France, and how his heterodox thesis of spiritual corporeality is gradually made subject to revision and reform. Against that background, the chapter then considers two literary instances of violence towards spirits. The first takes us to the battles with spirits imagined and theorised by Panurge in Rabelais's Tiers Livre. Then, in the light of Rabelais's story, and of the grander narrative of changing attitudes to the ghostly encounter charted in the opening section, the last section examines a constellation of similar moments in Ronsard, centred around the poet's celebrated verse translation of Psellus, the ‘Hymne des daimons’

Keywords: Rabelais; Ronsard; Psellus; swords; Hamlet; demons; scholasticism; neoplatonism

Chapter.  13760 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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