In This Article Pernette Du Guillet

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • French Editions
  • Translations into English and Bilingual Editions

Renaissance and Reformation Pernette Du Guillet
by
Karen Simroth James
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0402

Introduction

First published in 1545, soon after the poet’s death, Pernette du Guillet’s Rymes encompass popular lyric genres of the early French Renaissance, including épigrammes, chansons, épîtres, and élégies. The seventy-three poems composed during her short life reflect the influence of Neoplatonic and Petrarchan traditions. Many of the poems in the collection evoke the young author’s experiences with love and her birth as speaking and writing subject in relation to the erudition and eloquence of her beloved. Literary tradition has long linked Pernette du Guillet’s name with that of Maurice Scève (see Oxford Bibliographies article in Renaissance and Reformation “Maurice Scève”), identifying Du Guillet as the inspiration for Scève’s Délie (Lyon, 1544). We have no external evidence documenting their relationship, but Du Guillet inscribed Scève’s name in several of her poems through anagrams and word play. The poems of the Rymes engage in dialogue with those of Scève’s Délie, as well as with other important works of poetry and theories of love circulating in Lyon at the time, notably the works of Clément Marot and of the Italian Neoplatonists. The collected poems project an ultimate goal of spiritual and intellectual union with the beloved. Chaste love and the Neoplatonic Good triumph over Petrarchan suffering and desire, although the poet clearly recognizes and successfully evokes the force and charm of the latter. According to Antoine du Moulin’s prefatory epistle to the “Ladies of Lyon” in the first edition of the Rymes, Du Guillet 1545 (cited under French Editions), the young woman’s grieving husband wished to bring her poems to light after her death, providing a socially acceptable context for the publication of this love poetry. Subsequent biographical accounts of the poet are all drawn from Du Moulin’s preface, which presents the poet as a model of female virtue allied with learning. Within traditions focused on the experience and voice of the male poet and lover, the female lyric subject of the Rymes asserts firmly, yet often humorously, her right to speak and be heard. The voices that emerge from the collected poems praise the beloved’s talents and virtues, yet also offer moments of spirited criticism. They speak at times in abstract Neoplatonic terms, but at other times in a light-hearted tone of common sense that captures the essence of everyday encounters and emotions, including jealousy. The Rymes continue to intrigue readers in part for the ways in which Du Guillet created this complex poetic identity within social and literary contexts and conventions that otherwise relegated women to silence.

General Overviews

The substantial section devoted to Pernette du Guillet in Jones 1990 offers a valuable and highly readable introduction to this poetry within the social and literary contexts that shaped women’s love lyric in early modern Europe. The introduction to the bilingual (French-English) edition by James and Finch (Du Guillet 2010) provides background in English on publication of the Rymes in Renaissance Lyon and on the cultural and social milieu, thematic trends, literary conventions, and philosophical ideals that shaped this poetry, including the poet’s engagement with Neoplatonism and the practice of imitatio that both links her work to and differentiates it from her sources of inspiration. See also the introduction in French in the critical volume edited by Rajchenbach (Du Guillet 2006b) under French Editions. Saulnier 1944 remains a foundational work of scholarship on literary sources. Readers seeking a more concise introduction to the poet and her work will find the dictionary and encyclopedia entries by Rajchenbach 2007, Roussel 2007, and Rothstein 1994 helpful. For more on the topic of female authorship in this period, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Renaissance and Reformation “Women Writing in French.”

  • Du Guillet, Pernette. Complete Poems: A Bilingual Edition. Edited by Karen Simroth James. Translated by Marta Rijn Finch. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series 6. Toronto: Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2010.

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    This complete bilingual edition of the poetry includes an extensive introduction in English to Du Guillet’s uses of literary tradition, particularly her engagement with Neoplatonism, and to the publication of her work in the context of Renaissance Lyon, including the impact of the paratext on the reception of the Rymes.

  • Jones, Ann Rosalind. The Currency of Eros: Women’s Love Lyric in Europe, 1540–1620. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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    This influential volume analyzes lyric love poetry by women in Renaissance Europe and the strategies of eight women poets (including three French women: Catherine des Roches, Pernette du Guillet, and Louise Labé) in response to early modern gender ideologies and male-authored literary conventions.

  • Rajchenbach, Elise. “Pernette du Guillet.” Société Internationale pour l’´Étude des Femmes de l’Ancien Régime. 2007.

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    Excellent brief introduction to the conditions of publication of Du Guillet’s poetry in the context of Renaissance Lyon, to the range of poetic genres represented, and to the literary dialogue between the Rymes and Scève’s Délie. Includes selected quotations (jugements) representing the reception of Du Guillet’s collected poems from the late 16th through the early 21st century. Dictionary entry available online.

  • Rothstein, Marian. “Pernette du Guillet.” In French Women Writers. Edited by Eva Martin Sartori and Dorothy Wynne Zimmerman, 143–152. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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    Introduction to Du Guillet and major themes in her poetry, as well as to primary critical approaches to the Rymes and bibliographical references up to the point of publication of the dictionary.

  • Roussel, Brigitte. “Guillet, Pernette du.” In Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. Edited by Diana Maury Robin, Anne R. Larsen, and Carole Levin, 176–179. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007.

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    Helpful bibliography and concise introduction to the life and collected poems of Du Guillet, including an overview of themes and stylistic features and the intertextual links between the Rymes and Scève’s Délie.

  • Saulnier, Verdun. “Etude sur Pernette du Guillet et ses Rymes.” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 4 (1944): 7–119.

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    Saulnier’s seminal study introduced the poet and her work to modern academic readers and remains a key resource for understanding the textual sources and literary influences behind the Rymes.

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