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Italia Renascimento RE7, Rabelais, Françios & as part of the French Renaissance

Humanities, Humanists, Dominance

Copyright © 2008 Michael Johanthan McDonald, 10/16/2008.

Françios Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Character assassination or social critique?

Rabelais was a great a deconstructor the renaissance.

Good comparison critiques:

Nostradamus has been criticized for making the average into the sublime, the fantastical.

Rabelais has been criticized for making the sublime, the fantastical into the average.

The criticism of the renaissance man or the model of the new man ( and women) as outlined by Rabelais: know all disciplines possible to humankind. All except three vital disciplines: Astrology, Prophecy and searching for ultimate knowledge (philosopher’s stone/ tree of life) He advises never, to ever, studies these three forbidden disciplines for one iota of a moment. They are restricted, even to outside of his satire convictions -- criticisms of the humanism, courtier, and all learning disciplines associated to the renaissance and life itself or revealed in the classics. (list below, see program regime)

What the book communicates

What the book communicates: Life under the humanist and renaissance tradition is more difficult and complex for commoners, but classes remain the same and social mobility is an only an illusion. The privileged are privileged and the commoners worked hard. So Rabelais in this book asks us what is the point of the reviving the past then dedicated on such hard work. The program regime of a humanist and courtier are blurred by the time Rabelais is writing. Francis I would translate Castiglione into French, but the “many” ( not all) ideas of the courtier were already in progress in academia. In order to become a renaissance man one must constantly put effort in to learning from and early age and from a time a person wakes up till the time a person goes to sleep. This program regime begins when one is young and ends when someone reaches an age of their forties. After this age, they become military defenders, and their purpose in life is to propagate their families name to achieve everlasting fame, and mentor their children to become like them and continue the cycle.  Since social mobility in France was still rigidly restrained to the monarchial and medieval mindset, only a few rising from their born circumstances and not the norm realized in some of the ancient books he had read on Greece and the Roman Republic period, this program regime was only a way to make the common the working horse of the elite. Long before Karl Marx had his criticism of western civilization, Rabelais forward this view. Still there is no consensus; many commenters’ still see this book as satire based upon fierce humor regimen written for entertainment purposes. However, if one studies these books he references, and knows some of the arguments, the reading is more enjoyable, and reveals the staunch criticism of the higher levels of arguments this book details. Like Miguel Cervantes’, Don Quixote, this book can be read for its hysterical surface level humor or for its deep level of qualified arguments. Yet, Cervantes’ arguments are more refined and a tad bit deeper in complexity. Cervantes was Shakespeare’s contemporary, and during that time, literary models and literary arguments had progressed to a deeper critical analysis on human life and all aspects of it.

An academic surface level understanding of Rabelais & our world

Françios Rabelais is accredited with the First great French Novel, a Chronology of two fictional characters, Gargantua and Pantagruel, and their paths through the Humanist and Northern Renaissance Period. During the telling of their chronological lives, Rabelais takes the reader through the ‘real’ renaissance thinking in high-fashion comical style, while at the same time a critical but examining rendition of the human condition through a fast changing western civilization. He was fifteen years Erasmus’ junior, “the same age as Martin Luther, and sixteen years older than John Calvin.”[1] The world was changing but his close friend had been burnt at the stake, and freedom of speech had still to make its windy path toward normality. He was possibly born in 1483, published a casual tale of Gargantua in 1532 (Lyon),  and received public success, but was not his best work, leading him to write a chronology of Gargantua’s life and publish it as the second book. At the same time, began thinking about furthering the book to include a son of the main character, named Pantagrual. He would publish four volumes (a disputed fifth, after his death) and the entire book was misunderstood (some views by scholars). Today it is considered, although take the translation with most of a critical eye ( because it is claimed difficult), the most hysterical and masterful communication of ideas and arguments of the later medieval age – allowing its reader to peer into this time period and understand what other like our age want to understand – the western European civilized humans. Professors who study Rabelias are called Rabelasians.

Rabelias was a “remarkably well-schooled linguist, theologian, and classical scholar, a lawyer and diplomat and, finally, a university-trained practicing doctor. Although he was never formally married, by papal dispensation the children born to him out of wedlock were permitted to bear their father’s name. He edited learned texts, did a fair amount of translating, and lived a literally far-ranging life among the high and mightily of his time.”[2] He was much influenced by Erasmus. Rabelais died in 1554. In his time, it has been said by the greatest of living Rabelaisians, Professor M.A. Screech, that Rabelais was not exceptional to obscenity. The world around him was filled with “fetid odours and ghastly stenches. He was at home with pain, deformity, illness, starvation and death. He did not like them, but he was not averse to referring to them.” [3]

 Rabelais used sources from later Middle Ages, according to Erich Aurebach’s study of two thousand years of European literature, Mimesis,  but he had played “with things and with the multiplicity of their possible aspects; upon tempting the reader out of his [or hers] customary and definite way of regarding things, by showing him phenomena in utter confusion; upon tempting him out into the great ocean of the world, in which he can swim freely, though it be at his own peril....” [4]

The non academic & higher levels of understanding of who was Rabelais

There is a bit of self-hate in Rabelais’ work. He, himself, a part of the Franciscan effort to take in students on merit along and not because of their nobility of family prestige, studied many of the classical works he betrays in his book. Rabelais was a peasant who had worked for a Roman Cardinal in Rome and in Paris was surrounded with Lutheranism at the time of the riots of 1525, and then lived amoung a Calvanist town in Lyon after returning to France to become a doctor and before his final banishment form France. Among many ideas Luther portrayed was one such issue. The nobles held epistemic control over the common by privilege. Not being able to solve all issues, if Luther could get a Bible into the commoner’s hand, they would have weapons in which to defeat in argument the elite. Thus their economic circumstances would improve and a distribution of wealth could be had by a larger portion of the population.

Rabelais was banished from Paris in 1527 (some little book or publishing, under a pseudonym, not sure of its title of this work at the moment, heard it in lecture with out the name), where he left to Rome to escape the authorities. His first edition of this book in question was banned because of its criticisms of the nobility. He calls them names in obscenity. He had exposed their extravagance, and made fun of their fantastic lifestyle. One such lifestyle was celebrating the new golden age by summer feasts.   He understood the nobles planned summer feasts that could in reality feed about 100 peasants for a whole year. Starvation and disease in France still consisted as part of reality of his time. Most of the poorer and uneducated classes suffered the most.  These summer feasts to Rabelais were extravagant and wasteful of possible public resources. Yet, what Rabelais does not tell his audience is that these celebrations were a part of the new awakening of western celebration, a break form long labors of becoming a more humanist citizen – a difficult program regimen. These celebrations were in part of recognizing a past that had been bitter and hard but more as nominally mortal mundane.

The myth that the nobles lived in extravagance in the medieval age is no longer seen as a fact. Everyone from all classes lived a more agrarian and primitive lifestyle, died younger than later generations of the Golden Age of the renaissance, and lived a more communal lifestyle not because of wealth but because of choice that imperialism of the Roman Imperial era was understood as ‘evil.’ Living in dirt, caves, and the life of abject poverty help soothe the guilt associated with imperialist endeavors. By the 1480s, many people had begun to say that a realization of the golden age had returned. Wealth was a new thing many had not seen or learnt as part of the past five centuries. Rabelais understood hard work brought success which then brought decadence, the later a Marx claim of hedonism associated with individual freedom and capitalism. Rabelais’ book is about countering this new current of western civilization predicated upon bettering ones condition through constant bettering of oneself. Part of this reaction came because Rabelais understood his superior intellect but the intelligencia had controlled the distribution of wealth through noble channels.  His criticisms are revealed when Gargantua is a student of an average type and who is a noble himself. He is painted as a grotesque monster (Rabelais sentiments on the noble (privileged) class), does not put much effort into studies, eats and sleeps most of the day, and gets rewarded for being a noble. On the other hand, Rabelais works extremely hard and receives little for his efforts. The contrast of the peasant and the noble, and how the post-medieval age reveals class conflicts in regards to merit is the correct understanding of the book of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

In turn he blames the access of the nobles to higher education and privilege, and of not understanding these books they had read or able to ascertain books with correct logic based upon his own version of morality (seen through a bitter peasant’s eyes and not accepting his station in life).

Traits of the Humanists: According to Rabelias.

Humanist Criticism

Humanist Criticism: According to the criticism of Rabelais, a humanist is pressured into learning an extraordinary amount of knowledge that possibly is unfeasible, but in most of these humanist promotional works, these experts of these times keeps advocating these astounding feats of academic discipline. In order to accomplish such feats, a person would be proficient if only they start while they are young and continue to their middle ages, in order to master the full curriculum of a humanist -- about the age of 40 years old. To Rabelais, this was a waste of a life and time. Most books to him were incorrect, fantasies, and dead ends. They offered no real knowledge. Yet, a closer look at the physiological make up of what a human desires and this well ordered and structured society called the humanist (path) was part of civilization Europe.  In order for people to get along, they needed to be educated, speak many languages in order to understand other cultures, and be able to teach their young the ways of a civilization. A civilization needs to have in its definition, institutions of the modern sort. The medieval age had none. During the medieval ages, it is hard to argue that there were signs of a civilization. In order to run a civilization, a well ordered functioning society needed to be taught, promoted and perpetuated. Unfortunately, the creation of a civilization predicated upon teaching the peasants to learn to read, write, think and function in an institutional based system, requires a work effort that will demarcate unfair working conditions ( Karl Marx). Once this is realized, a reaction comes. In this case, it is Rabelais who is considered the first, and is at a cross roads of the critics of the Golden Age. To function in the golden age took effort, and it is that effort that Rabelais rebels against – because it did not bring him fortune – explains the satire as a catharsis. Rabelais was famous in France ( not Rome, and after two years in Rome, and no one recognizing him, he left to Lyon to become a doctor, believing things had settled down about his initial work released in Paris as discussed).

What about Thomas More and François Rabelais?  He knows about Thomas More, and speaks of 9 billion Dystopians, he makes fun of the whole idea – nothing sacred in Rabelais’s world. More is not writing a book to be laughed at – he wanted the English to use it as a mirror (even Europe) as a moral message about social equality, and a as social critique against England. Gargantua and Pantagruel represents a critical crossroads in the renaissance – after this critique about learning, teaching and understanding our world, these types of civilization critiques become commonplace.

What does Rabelais represent

“What does Rabelais represent?” He was also a part of the realm of the spontaneous. His book demonstrated a crossroads where criticizing the Golden Age and humanism became qualified. How do we know that he had reached this level of attention? By 1559, all Machiavelli’s work are banned, and Rabelais works were also banned. Rabelais  for its obscenity when he had issued his first short book on the life of Gargantua, under an pseudonym. The book became very popular by gathering attention. However, later when he began to expand on his book in Lyon, after a short journey from a position of a assistant to a Roman cardinal in Rome, and banished from Paris, he sent out his manuscript for a longer version of this book, and word got out that it was him as the author. Some intend this book is a character assassination on western civilization and its proponents. Others see it as dirty humor, and a satire on the self-importance and abuse of the nobility. But what everyone who is a scholar or a serious commentator will intend is that the book criticizes the role of the humanist.

Program Regime: Renaissance Man ( and Women)

Father Gargantua letter to his son at Paris Pantagruel

Chapter 8, Book 2:

“When Pantagruel had completed a vigorous course of study at Orléans, he decided to visit the great University of Paris.” [5]

Program Regime: Gargantua forced his son to learn liberal arts as a child when age five or six years-old: Geometry, arithmetic and music. He tells his son at Paris to continue to pursue these disciplines. ( his son is under the charge of an academic tutor.

Languages in order of study: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean and Arabic.[6]

Learn to “produce elegant and accurate printed books.” [7] ( e.g. become an author and/or a publisher).

Learn to make cannon and fearful weapons (this is a veiled attack upon Francis I). [8]

Learn of the ancient texts on civic laws by heart and be able to argue them with ancient philosophy. [9]

“Ignore Astrology and its prophecies, and all the hunt for the philosopher’s stone [...] leave those errors and vanities alone.” [10]

“I wish you to carefully devote yourself to the natural world. Let there be no sea, river, or brook whose fish you do not know.” [11] (e.g. become a biologist, and expert on natural science.).

Nothing should be unknown to you.” [12] (This is a contraction oversight, used for emotional purposes.).

Become a doctor: “Then carefully reread all the books of the Greek physicians, and the Arabs and Romans, without turning your back on the talmudic scholars or those hwo have written on the Cabala.” [13] (Rabelais intertwines medicine and mysticism as part of the program regime for his son, an actual criticism of what should a humanist become in life; Rabelais had attended Montpellier, after returning from exile in Rome; which in part was a distant from authorities in Paris and in Rome. He set up his residence in Lyon, a relatively free place and progressive place away from restrictions of Paris.).

Daily Time Restrictions: “Spend several hours each day [14] engaged in Biblical studies, letters, chapters of both Old and New Testaments, and do it Hebrew. (Remember when one is learning everything else, one must dedicate several hours a day to this discipline, which Rabelais make a point for emphasis on religion itself!).

After Pantagruel will learn everything of this world, and comes to an age (most likely of the age of forty-years old, the time when most Europeans would receive their doctorates, after decades of study (at least in the humanities, whereas the specified medical profession could be much quicker, based upon knowledge already attained and demonstrated at Montpellier.), he is then to take on a new study of military officer, diplomat, and embrace chivalry and warfare. [15]

The religious reverbance (my word) of suggestion for following biblical social teachings, and that of the similar courtier ways of the renaissance man; Pantagruel seeks to make sure that his son abides by the normative convictions of the citizen man, steep in Christian humanism. (e.g. biblical social teachings, as “do unto others.....etc., and courtier as ‘don’t engage in vanity....etc.).

Last salutation to his sun, Gargantua said” “Written from Utopia, this seventeenth day of the month of March. Your Father Gargantua.”

Analysis: It is painfully obvious that Rabelais is telling his audiences that these program regimes are promoted by humanists in a serious manner, and it is impossible to have a life if ones life is revealed in constant study of life. How can one enjoy life, when they spend their whole life studying what other say about life? On the other hand, the satire is framed that this is ridiculous and unattainable. No-one could hope to study their whole life and know all things (except prophecy, astrology and Epic legends, see above.) about life to be able to dominate others in conversations, and actions. The hint that Rabalais places Thomas More’s Utopia as the location of his father suggests that Humanist are trying, like More, to frame a perfect society  -- which is in fact a dystopia ( a word Rabelais would use when speaking more about the world the Utopians.). The introduction to “spend several hours a day on religious studies” is a blatant attack on Christians and Hebrews. It is hard to believe that this is a social criticism on how life was lived by the European population (who had no idea of how to read the Bible in Hebrew, which was opposite of what Luther had suggested as translated into common languages of different regions for public access of all.). The point of the attack on humanists and the renaissance archetype of man (and women – women are supposed to become scholars as well) is such a character assassination, and exaggeration of the humanist citizen project, formally the renaissance project.

Earlier places in the book intend that Pantagruel should engage in:

Arithmetic; Accomplished at horsemanship, everything military, using all the weapons, training tactics, field tactics...[16] Athletics, exercise, Books, reading, literature, memorization of ‘authoritative’ passages. Inventor,

Rabelais Criticisms of Nobles privileges on Crime

Rabelais Criticisms: Gargantua can get away with theft (the Nostredame Bell(s)) because he is a noble. Gargantua’s father advocates for his son’s mischief. The criticism is that elite and privileged could get away with acts that peasants would possibly be imprisoned or executed. In chapter seven, book two, a repetition exists when Pantagruel rings a towns bell and serves everyone spoiled wine, causing them sickness the next day, but people fear him none-the-less and when he goes through towns ( in this case Paris) people come out to respect his presence. This eludes a comment that Parisians are stupid people for doing homage to nobles.

Humanists were a way of life, a way of developing virtue, as skill a refinement of man in the image of the divine. During the Italian renaissance (c. 1350-1500) Western civilization began to move away Augustine’s restrictions on freedom. When we speak on the concept of Jacob Burckhardt’s realm of the spontaneous, he is correct that once people had received a certain sense of individualism, yet qualified in freedom of choice – not regimented in the restrictive negativism of the anti-imperialism mindset – that is to say, to do less is to be morally superior. Emancipating from the ideology of self-hate, led people began to think that they could advance their economic circumstances through hard work and therefore enjoy the prosperity which comes along with the extra effort. To live life in a regiment of “order” as opposed to chaos and negativism, one was to become whole in their daily life and well learned to help continue the path of investigation to become whole – a whole person. Life under the rebirth of civilization became regimented. Many who pined for the past, rather presumed a lifestyle of chaos.  They had argued, as Justinian I had followed the people’s sentiments, that higher education and high-levels of knowledge had brought death, destruction and evil according to the guilt-layers post-Roman decline era. After centuries of living in the dirt (so to speak, primitively) with no hope (communicated to the common ideologically, yet by their collective voices), hard lives, early death and little happiness, the western civilization said we had enough of our ancient ancestors telling us were all are ‘bad humans.’ Humanity was born out of this reaction. It was a right-wing reaction. In order to get there, one had to constantly work at bettering themselves. This is what Rabelais’ criticizes. He believed it had reached the absurd.

Pantagruel writes a letter to his son, Gargantua, who is in school.

The authorities[17] were the classical authors that the humanist read and memorized passages from, thus the authority.

Humanist Authorities: “Pliny, Athenaeus, Dioscorides, Julius Pollux, Galen, Porphyry, Oppian, Polybius, Heliodorus, Aristotle, Claudius Aelian, and others.” [18]

Using your time to better oneself

Games that use arithmetic and logic:[19] Learning does not end after dinner. One may play a game that is intellectually challenging. So play after meals or resting times between duties, and do something informative with one’s free time. Don’t sit idle for one minuet is the path of the humanist. Idleness was of the old’ world, Dark Ages mentality, when passing time idly was of the utmost importance. The medieval thought was the idler one became the less evil they could do. They could work at menial jobs, please their masters or lords and take to non-intellectual pastimes for entertainment. If you do not do anything, the though went, you could not harm anyone – which was in contention to the point of knowledge for the Greeks. With knowledge, Greeks became people of action, and people of action went around acting upon their impulses of knowledge, and in the process of acting they wound up intermingling with ‘others’ which in turn meant meddling among foreign things which would be accusative of doing evil later on in the form of actionary (my word) examples. For example, when humanists decided to write on foreign things, later in the twentieth century a backlash to uninformative histories of people became contentious within the very competing knowledge fields. Westerners were challenged by easterners with the charge that they created the easterner’s history, therefore were dominating economically the easterners as subjects the way western lords had treated their western serfs by privilege, control, force, which ultimately came from knowledge. This charge had previously taken place during the decline period of Rome, and Christianity had been blamed -- as the excuse for the change in attitude of traditional Roman actionary ways. To remedy the solution, inaction took on the role as the safest course of action against creating others’ destines. The idea was to blame the ones in control, and if this action was strong enough it caused a reaction to the class in power to fell guilt and solve it by a solution of inaction, negativity, and caution. This helps explain why Justinian had disbanded Greek schools of thought and St Augustine proposed a simple life of guilt and penance – a way to feel negative about one’s earthly condition. One had to feel so negative about their condition that they resolved to live in primitive lifestyles and ask no questions. After centuries and many different generations, a new generation came again and sought to remedy the inaction by asking what was lost? They had decided that it was knowledge of the past that had created a grandiose civilization. Empirically they could see this grandeur by observable relics, and by the new archeology projects that uncovered them, and by the mere ancient artifices that poke through terra firma at them.  

Discussions at meals[20] were for learning purposes ( after meals for Baldesar Castiglione, at the Palazzo Ducale the palace of the Duke of Urbino, when he was there under employment of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, at that time). So learning never stopped. It was continual learning a sort of processing for dominance of knowledge. after meals to go outside and study the night sky, and then right before bed a recounting of what was taught to them, what they learned that day, and then a few prayers and then bedtime. [21] This intended that the renaissance man does not stop education during or after the nighttime hours.

Exercise, and keeping fit, was part of the humanist regime.

Falling by the Way Side, giving up on civilization.

When raining, indoor activities like cleaning house, taking care of agricultural duties or craftsmanship --- all illustrate to the artist of the self made humanist Renaissance man that continual activity and engagement of knowledge learning was a constant motive if one needed to become a citizen of the new civilization. This program regime has continued till this day. A good observation was the 1960s (cycle of opposition) to working hard, with excuses of wanting to drop out of society because it was regimented, stagnate, materialistic and basically sacrificial to the human need for relaxation. The criticisms against these new called people the hippies by the citizens were above all accusations of laziness and slothfulness, and people who had the government provide them with everything they wanted so they would just go to the park and relax and enjoy life. This is because life was sacrificial and hard work. Something they saw as not important. Yet, when we see civilizations that have qualities of not working hard, and take pleasures in relaxing and breaks form hard work, they are usually dominated in real life either economically, politically or usually both by a civilization that is in constant action and constant study of ways of “Nothing should be unknown to you.” the French Anneal schools of the 1920s had revealed that this type of program regime demonstrated a hegemonic propensity of those who practice this art of “knowing all.” Like Justinian I, the people saw this trend as causing wars and reactions and guilt. Learning was a dangerous occupation. The hippies had preached this view as well. When Nostradamus speaks on perpetual history, this is a marker on what such subject: the actions and reactions of the cycles of sentiment and groups that exists within its cycles. Of course, by singling out astrology and prophecy, Rabelais understands the inherent danger of the highest knowledge possible: a knowledge that he is not unique but a continuing line of social agitators who happened not to get rich but spent his life in pursuit of epistemic dominance. This is because the need for attention and to feel different and in regards to fame ( a large topic of this book) is a human need, an individualist need, and he has it and is reacting against it by character assassination by those who promote how to get it. Rabelais is a study in psychology.

Library of Saint Victor’s Abbey in Paris

Saint-Aignan, just to the southeast of the town, there was an immense bell that had fallen to the ground more than two hundred and forty years earlier.....

“Parisians are natural fools...” [22]

Pantagruelized: people are in fear of him, but do homage to him when he passes through towns. They come out to show respect to a noble who does them harm, thus they are ‘natural fools.”

The book titles of the library of Saint Victor’s Abbey are a critique upon the massive amounts of printed material adjacent to the relatively new age of the printing press.  At least five pages of titles alone on a large paged book represents Rabelais contention of knowledge being allowed back into society – many who are from humanists who do not live up to the qualities of the ancients (although he condemns these authors as well). Nothing is forbidden for condemnation in Rabelais’ world. Just like Julius Cesar Scaliger, he believed he knew everything and others new nothing – which described why he fought will all his former friends. Scaliger was intelligent, but not as intelligent as his son, therefore his reasoning that he was smarter than others remains qualified.

Disrespecting authority

While others have made nobles look silly in print, the normative manner of Rabelais’ treatment of them by calling them names and with association of obscenities, explains two-level reasons why his works were banned. Nobles have titles that belittle them, make them look criminal, filthy and ignorant. While to engage in disputes over logic, reason, and theology was permitted at least in some part, Rabelais took criticism on the nobles to the extreme. Chapter eleven, book two, on titles of two Lords is one example.

Rabelais on War

While not naming Francis I or Charles V, Rabelais attacks these two kings in print here, and everyone knew who he was speaking of – which also exclaims the royal houses taking part in banning of his work.

Lecture [15] 10162008 on Rabelais  ( edited, and with some of my additions and views)

François Rabelais

The French Currents of the Renaissance

The French renaissance and the transfer of the Italian ideas to the French renaissance were slow to take fruition. French Pride and their accomplishments during the medieval ages, tells us the reason that they are late in adopting the rebirth of a civilization project.  They were into letters and education during the medieval age. Paris university began small but during the early thirteenth century (1203, by papal bull). But at the beginning of the sixteenth century, many of the classical works had been translated and published. Rabelais works is a good place to investigate what books were available for enquiry of the past. This explains a certain reaction of French mentality in regards to their own renaissance (c. 1500s) Montaigne summed it up: “French are not content to copy others, they were always thinking about moving forward.” Then to Rabelais , we understand that the French were already in to the chronology of the renaissance: so many works already had set the agenda. So this explains people like Rabelais, who would think of trying something new. Why not criticize it? Criticizing civilizations norms had been another part of the past in which Rabelais picked up upon and brought this genre back into civilization. Both the Romans and the Greeks had comedies (an alleged but never found comedy of Aristotle), satires and criticisms of their own societies. When we read Socrates other biographer, not Plato, this idea of criticism the current norm of the state was accessible to freedom of speech. Socrates managed to uncloak some of the prominent leaders of Athens who were stealing Delian League funds form the Palace of Athena, in which they did not like his exposing their crimes. Thus he was falsely put up on charges, and being old longed for death anyway. So the European has gone forward (Italian renaissance) and are no longer concerned about rediscovering the ancient knowledge --  the ancient past to furthering knowledge takes on a new course in the French Renaissance. French intend to create knew knowledge(s) (so they think) and to further the boundaries on what can be attained of understanding life itself.

Silliness as a way to reflect upon ones time

Rabelais is satire, a sharp and humorous work full of scathing attacks on the intellectual giants of his day – he wants to push the envelope and he wants to push people’s buttons ( idiomatic for trying anyway one can to upset their preconceived beliefs of a group or individual or instatution) . Think about the serious young man like Petrarch, who wants to revive the ancient knowledge and hold these ancient authors in reverence. He equality understands the conflict with Christian values (a moral dilemma), while Rabelais refuses to understand its complexities.  Yet Petrarch gently reveals that the populations of the Europeans live in the dark by not understanding the concepts of higher learning and reasoning and philosophy. Rabelais communicates that ancient knowledge is “worthless.”

This helps to explain that Rabelais pushes the Christian humanist and the ancients to the side. They do not matter to what is important, so he argues by his characters’ voices to tell us how Rabelais feels about the current ways of western civilization. But, to take a step back for a moment and reveal a bit of French tradition that speaks of their historiography and up till the present. They love to criticize themselves as much as others, a type of defacements or humility. It helps them to feel that they are not alone in this world, and they do not have all the answers. They want to be a part of civilization and at the same time they want to have a special niche in it too.  In some respects, Rabelais is telling us that the French and he do not or better yet, cannot know everything that there is to know. The journey is feudal and we all must take a step back and ponder our real selves.

Franciscans and the merit education program

Gargantua and Pantagruel is a critique of the world of the intelligencia. Lets thinks (Rabelais, 1494 - 1553) he comes onto the scene a little earlier than Montaigne. He is a Franciscan; they were an important teaching order.  Franciscans were in the job of the teaching modes of the civilization. So the Franciscans are open to studying history and rhetoric, so they incorporate some of the Petrarchean ideas into their agenda. Franciscans were a way for a poor person to get an education (think of Johannes Kepler’s merit education, coming from an extremely poor family to be accepted in one of the first public schools of the day.). They did not care about class; they looked at your intelligence – if you could handle the rigors of academic proficiency and challenge the other top intellects. Franciscans were pro-western civilizations adherents.

Notes, scribbled.

Sarbonne: Rabalais, goes to this university in Paris.

 ( rabalais was in Paris int he 1520s, Luther is discussing his ideas in Paris. Luther was pushing his eurcraist, his ideas, but most of all to get languages to be learned so to get Bibiles into everyone’s hands. Luther’s agenda supported the idea of studying Greek. People in Florence were studing Greek at great lenght, ( 15 c Flroence, people from Constantinople (

The original bible was written in Greek the common language during the early Christian communities, Luther says they should be studying Greek to read it in the original language of the Bible. The theologians of these days believed people could not understand the nuances, and training to understand the concept of the bible – to avoid making interpretation mistakes> What does this have to do with Rabelais. 1525 riots in Paris, so in 1527, the faculty forbids the teaching of Greek and do not learn it for the public community ( wait to people are 30 and not eighteen, do not give it to undergraduate)

But Rabelais is a rebel and leaves the order of the Franciscans and leaves Paris, goes to study medicine, and studies in Lyon, and it is a real center of Calvinist fervor later on. Lyon is more of a out of a way (centers of authority are in Paris and Rome), so the city is a bit for free. Rabelais publishes in Lyon, becomes a doctor and gets success, and under a fictitious name he publishes Gargantua, it is banned for obscenity, and Rabelais’ details for bodily functions was not a common things in which the public had read – he is doing it with a learned combination of obscenity and high-scholarship.

Rabales had to leave town, and goes to Rome and becomes a Cardinal’s doctor, his celebrity did not go with him to Rome, after two years things calm down and he goes back to Lyon, and in 1547 he is banished from all of Rome ( and a small town, people are reading in a circle of friends his works  and it gets out that he is writing this type of obscenity. He becomes an adjective – Rabelaisian – something that is a bit over the top.

Rabelais is interested in basically reviving Satire, the iconic satirical, it was in ancient Greece and Rome.

In medieval world, what was put under the lid was like Aristotle’s comedy, it really had been lost, but this meant that satire was bad; people had to be serious in the medieval age. So Rabelais wanted to revive it. He was not the first person to use it in the renaissance, but Rabelais attacks all things great and powerful. Rabelais has been criticized for making the sublime, the fantastical into the average. When is talking about this long nobility of genealogies,  those lists which these nobles really loved? Usually a noble would love to hire a humanist to draw up a genealogy and link them to a Roman god or anyone important in history. There was this exaggerated intellectual attribute associated with the ruling class – like the giants in his books, Rabelais exaggerate the nobles because these creatures are nobles too. In Rabelais’ case, he wants to makes these nobles and imposters to look as silly as he can – to look grotesque...

His points are that nobles do everything in excess: they eat, drink, spend money on themselves and not on peasants like his roots. Rabelais lives as a peasants and when he grew up and goes to Rome, he sees a Pope ( Farnese) and sees that these nobles feasting he is astounded because of the poor and afflicted that he sees in the countryside and poor towns. People, especially, were enjoying the plenty of the golden age, and they would go all out try to out do each other in great summer feasts. So peasants who are schooled react to this revelation of indulgence. A noble feast could end up feeding 100 people for a whole year. So his book is a harsh social critique. So many people were not happy to read this. Like today, the Federal government bails out the rich CEO (in financial crisis ( Sept. Oct. 2008)), and CEO’s cabinets and families are off Rabelaisian. 

[1] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. xi. Raffel’s prepatory reading was guided by Professor Joseph Duggan of the University of California at Berkeley, who had been generally helpful with this translation, Raffel reveals in the introductory, “Translators’ Preface,”p. xi

[2] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. ix.

[3] Professor M.A. Screech, quoted in Françios Rabelais, “Gargantua and Pantagruel,” trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. x.

[4] Professor M.A. Screech, quoted in Françios Rabelais, “Gargantua and Pantagruel,” trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. x.

[5] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 150.

[6] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[7] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[8] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[9] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[10] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[11] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[12] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 158.

[13] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), pp. 158 -159. talmudic is not capitalized in this translation, and in these times capitalization was a preference to the printer/publisher.

[14] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 159.

[15] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 159.

[16] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), pp. 58-59.

[17] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 58.

[18] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 58. According to Rabelias. The chapters will introduce further authorities, as well as a critique of chivalric literature.

[19] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), pp. 50-58.

[20] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 62. ‘...lessons during supper.’

[21] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 62. ‘...lessons during supper.’


[22] Rabelais, Françios, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans., Burton Raffel (London: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., 1990), p. 150.




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