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Imagery in French religious poetry in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries

Fairburn, Ann (1967) Imagery in French religious poetry in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The purpose of this thesis is to examine the poetry of the late sixteenth, and early seventeenth centuries by studying in particular its imagery. The study will differentiate between different styles of imagery and bring out the characteristics which, the poets of this period shared. The first chapter is a definition of the image in general, pointing out its function as a means of comparison and a means of expressing the poet's experience. The different ways of using an image and the different types of imagery will be indicated. Finally I shall trace the differences in theories of the image in different periods, and indicate the special characteristics of baroque imagery. In the second chapter I shall make a general study of the relation between art and religion, and the uses made of imagery in religious faith. The individuality of the writer of devotional literature produces an individual type of imagery, and the chapter concludes with an examination of imagery used in prose writing during the period to which this study is devoted. The third chapter is concerned with influences, firstly Biblical imagery and its influence on poets dealing with biblical themes, and on the poetry of death and transience. I shall also try to define the differences between the Protestant and Catholic writer in his acceptance of Biblical imagery. Then I shall study the Italian influence. Since the similarity between religious and erotic imagery is often striking, the influence of love poetry, especially the predominant Fetrarchist style is an important factor to be considered. Then the use of classical mythology in imagery will be studied, and finally the signs of medieval survivals in imagery will be outlined. The fourth chapter is in three parts. The first part examines extremely sensuous and picturesque imagery, firstly in its more gloomy aspects; poetry on the Day of Judgement, the afterlife, the Crucifixion. Then allegorical imagery and imagery of transient things will be studied. Imagery often becomes very vivid when required to translate intense emotion. On the other hand the optimistic outlook is e pressed in the picturesque imagery describing the Virgin and Mary Magdalene. Imagery is often developed disproportionately and translates the individuality of the poet's vision of the world and his faith. The second part deals with antithetical and paradoxical images. The themes illustrated by antithesis are the contrasts between the flesh and the spirit, and the contradictions in life. Antithesis is also used to describe negatively things which are beyond the normal powers of description. Paradox is shown to be an integral part of Christian belief, especially in the themes of death and life, in dealing with the doctrine about Christ and the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Trinity, and life as a whole can be described in paradoxical terms. The last part deals with complexity in imagery, particularly symbolic images and images which are made to illustrate a large number of ideas. Some poets use imagery which is obscure, sometimes because the idea it expresses is difficult to grasp, sometimes to preserve the essential mystery of the Christian faith. This obscurity is increased by confusion in language and abruptness of style. Often the imagery is obscure because the poet is too concerned with demonstration of his own erudition. The fifth chapter will examine the function of the image within the poem. Firstly the image which is central to the poem is illustrated, and then the poem which is made up of a series of connected images. The poet’s individuality is demonstrated by the way in which he uses images. Then it is shown how images complement the idea and form an illustration of it. The image may also be the unifying element of the, poem from the structural point of view, or it may simply be a form of decoration. Finally 1 shall point out what the poets themselves considered the function of poetry to be and how they approached the problem of style. The conclusion points out the general characteristics of the imagery of this period in relation to the poetry of Europe in general, and makes some attempt to explain why and in what way the poetry of this period makes a distinctive use of imagery.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1967
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:31

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