Obscenity and the Politics of Authorship in Early Seventeenth-Century France: Guillaume Colletet and the 'Parnasse des poetes satyriques' (1622)
Oxford University Press
Copyright © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in French Studies following peer review. The version of record Roberts, H., Obscenity and the Politics of Authorship in Early Seventeenth-Century France: Guillaume Colletet and the Parnasse des poetes satyriques (1622) French Studies (2014) 68 (1): 18-33 doi:10.1093/fs/knt226 is available online at: http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/content/68/1/18.
In 1635 the poet Guillaume Colletet (1598–1659) became a founding member of the Académie française. Yet only a dozen years before this he had been exiled as a result of the poems he signed in Le Parnasse des poetes satyriques (1622), the same collection that provoked the trial of Théophile de Viau in 1623–25. Focusing on Colletet's contributions to the collections of lewd poetry known as the recueils satyriques, I argue that he uses obscenity as a sign of poetic superiority, transcending such concerns as propriety, and as the means by which he could attempt to bolster his reputation. The poetry provokes an imagined censor who will confirm this superiority, and the figure who rose to the bait was the Jesuit François Garasse, in his Doctrine curieuse des beaux esprits de ce temps, ou prétendus tels (1623). Colletet's crime was sociolinguistic, because in using taboo words (especially foutre) he revealed that the rules of linguistic propriety that were supposed to underpin the social hierarchy were at best arbitrary. Colletet's reaction to his exile reveals his ongoing concern with his reputation, his denials of obscenity being part of an attempt to gain the status that he had previously sought from the appearance of libertinage.
Vol. 68, Iss. 1, pp. 18 - 33