Role of the Image in the Prose Writing of Erasmus, Rabelais, Marguerite De Navarre, and Montaigne

Author: Sharpling, Gerard P.


“This study demonstrates above all the relevance of the preoccupations of the writers he treats to those of today. It also charts their accessibility. Sharpling considers how Rabelais, Marguerite de Navarre and Montaigne sought an idiom which would have an impact on their reader and involve him or her with the text. Drawing on the lexicon of Rhetoric, Sharpling shows how various devices bring immediacy and colour to the prose of these writers; he also shows how a highly personal use of them can enforce a challenge…. It is to be hoped that Gerard Sharpling’s fascinating study will bring the sixteenth century back to our horizons.” – Judy Sproxton

“Sharpling’s study is rich, impressive and eminently scholarly. It is clear, well written, well documented….useful not only to students and scholars of the Renaissance but to those interested in the aesthetic evaluation of writers’ styles of any period. It will also be an important reevaluation of the distinctive expression of the four humanist writers chosen for the study…. Aside from very rich endnotes, the book closes on a substantial bibliography and a useful index.”

"Gerard Sharpling's study of imagery unites four authors that span the length of the sixteenth century. These texts come together, Sharpling argues, because they demonstrate the interplay between visual imagery, human experience and the development of prose writing. Sharpling is particularly concerned with the way in which visual images in these works betray the fragmentary nature of existence, which in turn necessitates an intuitive reader response, which he contends would have been underpinned by a Christocentric approach. This book is therefore a return to the study of humanist evangelism as an approach to French Renaissance literature, which in previous decades dominated scholarship on writers such as Rabelais and Montaigne. Although Sharpling has selected authors who reflect on the processes of reading and writing, these texts raise different issues because of their wide chronological span and the different scope for Christocentric readings they present ... Sharpling's study successfully mediates between rhetoric and the practice of writing and reading prose in Renaissance France. This mediation is necessary given the unstable nature of prose writing in this period and its unsystematic use of visual imagery ... Overall, the book is a well-constructed study of the reflexivity of the writing and reading processes in the Renaissance. Although the prominence of Evangelical humanism in Sharpling's analysis will not meet with approval from all quarters, the exposition of rhetorical terms and demonstration of how they function is in itself worth reading and would serve as an excellent introduction for students of rhetoric. Sharpling's own prose is well written and easy to read, making this an enjoyable book." - Renaissance Journal

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. Introduction: Images and the Human Condition
2. Images and the Interpretation of Experience: The Biblical Context
3. Images, Rhetoric, and the Graphic Presentation of Experience
4. Erasmus and the Values of Folly
5. Images and Intuitive Response in Rabelais’s Quart Livre
6. From Delusion to Faith: the Role of Images in Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron
7. Images and Experience in Montaigne’s Essais
8. Conclusion: Images and Faith
Bibliography; Index