L'emploi du contraste dans le drame romantique francais de 1827 a 1838
Carson, Morgan Steele
Master of Arts
Rabelais achieved his goal of making people laugh, because his equivocal humor provided them with a refuge against all forms of violence. An analysis of Rabelais' works shows that only ambivalent laughter, simultaneously destroying and rebuilding its object or victim, is able to break the vicious cycle of communal violence in Maître François' literary creation. One could say that violence incited by villains (maraulx) such as Picrochole, the Limousin, and the Chiquanous, is the negative phenomenon to which humor owes its revitalizing powers among hiiman beings. Presented theoretically and according to principles laid down by modem formalist critics (Cerard Genette, Tzvetan Todorov), laughter is revealed throughout this study as a sacrificial instrument which symbolically kills a victim and frees a society from the destructive contagion of innate violence. Laughter in this context consequently takes on cosmic or universal dimensions which evoke a fundamental symbolism in man. The archetype of humor studied in this thesis may explain in part why Rabelais' work survives today. Yet certain literary commentators from the seventeenth century up to the present day greatly misunderstood "humanistic" laughter due to their insistence on applying strictly rational norms to a work which hardly lends itself to such arbitrary limitations. Such an exclusively imi-directional perspective of laughter led La Bruyère, Voltaire and others to consider Rabelais' art as "la charme de la canaille." This aesthetic eclipse lasting four centuries dissipated only after the French Romantics and modern critics had begun to see Renaissance wit in a broad light. Rabelais knew well how to blend together a whole spectrum of verbal fantasy and exuberant action -- thus creating a sort of theatrical production (festival) where a sacrificial crisis is transformed into a health-giving comic relief. The application of René Girard's ideas on sacrifice to Mikkhall Bakhtine’s concept of ambivalent laughter shows how the integration of these isolated elements and the dynamic relationships between them constitute part of the author's artistic creation. Thus the "genie-mère" of French literature cleared the last vestiges of medieval brutality from his aesthetics of humor and avoided the temptation to engage in solely destructive satire. On the contrary, his concept of wit took on for the first time a positive aspect which gave an affirmative response to existence.