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Une forme frondeuse: the Function of Discontinuity in La Rochefoucauld's Maximes

By D. McCallam


[First paragraph] In 1663 Mme de Sablé circulated privately a small number of copies of La Rochefoucauld’s Sentences et maximes de morale (as it was titled at the time); this exercise was intended to sound out opinion about the work in advance of any publication. Among the extant replies to this consultation, one in particular singles out disapprovingly the disjointed nature of the work. Describing the reading process in terms of masonry, the anonymous critic states: \ud \ud On y remarque de belles pierres, j’en demeure d’accord; mais on ne saurait disconvenir qu’il ne s’y trouve aussi du moellon et beaucoup de plâtras, qui sont si mal joints ensemble qu’il est impossible qu’ils puissent faire corps ni liaison, et par conséquent que l’ouvrage puisse subsister. \ud \ud The critic goes on to claim that the work is nothing but an anthology of ‘sentences’ and ‘pointes’ culled from more coherent works that had the distinct advantage over the Maximes of contextualizing their remarks: ‘car si l’on voyait ce qui était devant et après, assurément on en serait plus édifié et moins scandalisé’\u

Year: 2002
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