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Beyond the plausible: On the relationship between history, tragedy and epic poetry in Corneille, Voltaire, and Schiller

Moraes Ferreira, Caio

This dissertation explores the intersection between three different literary genres – historiography, tragedy, and epic poetry – in the neoclassical period, taking as its central problem the way said genres set out to represent strange and even unintelligible moments in the past. It is based on a case study of four canonical works that, contrary to what is expected of neoclassical literature, represent historical figures seen by audiences of the time as too disturbing or too farcical to be intellectually or artistically “useful”: the violent Roman hero Horace (the protagonist of Corneille’s eponymous tragedy), the Swedish king Charles XII (who anchors Voltaire’s first historical biography) and finally Joan of Arc (who appears in Voltaire’s comical epic La Pucelle d’Orléans, and in Schiller’s tragedy Die Jungfrau von Orléans). In exploring these texts, I set out to show that, while neoclassical poetics deeply emphasized the importance of representing the past in a plausible and dignified manner (be it in histories or in poetry), authors of the time were also aware that the past could be the domain of the uncanny and the fabulous, and that representing the implausible required different kinds of textual experimentation and different ways of playing with genre norms.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Thesis Advisors
Force, Pierre
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 16, 2021