Genre and the Problematics of Discursive and Spiritual Mode in the Devotional Lyric of Jean de La Ceppède

Ganim, Russell Joseph, Department of French, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Lyons, John, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

The purpose of my dissertation, "Genre and the Problematics of Discursive and Spiritual Mode in the Devotional Lyric of Jean de La Ceppède " is to analyze genre as a means of contemplating divine mystery. Unlike other studies on La Ceppède, this thesis interprets mystery as a metaphysical or theological problematic which is articulated, developed, and in some cases resolved in terms of a literary model. In La Ceppède's Théorèmes (1613, 1622), the work's lyric, epic and tragic subtexts directly relate to the expression of mystery, thereby fusing literary and devotional exercise.

I start with La Ceppède's selection of the sonnet as his primary mode of discourse. On both the individual and sequential levels, La Ceppède exploits the sonnet's structure to set forth an exposition/proof format in which mystery is announced and revealed. In addition, the sonnet's compact, rigorous, and often self-contained form suggests a regularity if not an orthodoxy consistent with the poet's dogmatic interpretation of Christ's life. Subsequently, La Ceppède's appropriation of various Medieval and Renaissance lyric types is discussed, among them the pastourelle, blason, emblème and baiser. Modulation of this sort not only aids in the exposition and proof of certain problematics, but brings about the ultimate expression of these types, as they take on their highest meaning within the Christian dispensation.

From the lyric, discussion moves to epic in an effort to seize upon the work's encyclopedic nature, moral tone, and collective narrative voice. La Ceppède will be seen to parallel Homer, Virgil and Dante by basing his epic on truths which he considers objective and supernaturally authoritative. Like his Greco-Latin predecessors, La Ceppède develops traits essential to epic such as the hero, his challenge, and victory, but interprets them in such a way as to provide worldview markedly different from that of his precursors. What results is that the Christian hero directly contradicts the hero of Antiquity through his charity, grace and spiritual consciousness.

After epic, the tragic dimension of the Théorèmes will be studied, with a critical perspective grounded both in Aristotle's Poetics, as well as the neo-platonism which characterized dramatic theory in the late Renaissance. Analysis will show that the true tragic character in Christ's Passion is man, rather than Christ. In the person of the poet/dévot and Pontius Pilate, man has the potential to commit the hamartia of rejecting Christ and suffer for it.

Finally, I will show that the Théorèmes marked a conflation of generic forms which echoed that of Metaphysical, Mannerist and Baroque styles during the period in which La Ceppède wrote. The comprehensive nature of this fusion mirrors not only La Ceppède's eclecticism, but an inclusiveness he believed would redeem both man and art.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Théorèmes, pastourelle, blason, emblème, baiser, Christian hero
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