In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Joachim du Bellay

  • Introduction
  • General Introductions
  • Critical Anthologies
  • Rhetoric and Poetics
  • Form(s) and Genres
  • Du Bellay and Ronsard
  • Neo-Latin Poetry

Renaissance and Reformation Joachim du Bellay
Corinne Noirot
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0379


Although Joachim Du Bellay (b. c. 1522–d. 1560) has long been regarded as a canonical poet of the French Renaissance, his literary contributions remained overshadowed by the wide-ranging and self-promoting production of his friend and rival Pierre de Ronsard. Du Bellay’s ambivalence toward power, promotion of a moderate stance and style, taste for eclecticism and allusiveness, and incursions into the world of Neo-Latin verse, however, are among the traits that make him stand out. Envisaging the depth and breadth of Du Bellay criticism leaves one fascinated with the enduring, near-universal legacy of two of his works, namely, the Deffence, and Enrichment of the French Language, a sort of vernacular manifesto (Deffence, et Illustration de la Langue Françoyse [1549]) and the Regrets sonnet sequence, which combines contrasting tonalities (Les Regrets et autres œuvres poétiques [1558]). The influence of these two books ranges far beyond what can be compiled in this limited space, from colonial and post-colonial vernacular manifestos to contemporary popular music or theories of self-referentiality. Du Bellay criticism draws a continuum without major contradictory interpretations, save for certain naively biographical readings of the post-Romantic, Lansonian era—treating Olive and Faustina as real women with whom the poet fell in love, for instance. Guillaume Colletet’s “Vie de Joachim Du Bellay,” along with compelling first-person poems and prefaces, fed this biographical trend, which brought forth groundbreaking findings when the poet’s career as opposed to his love life became the focus (Cooper 1990 [cited under Frenchness and Nationhood]). The mid-20th century produced many comprehensive introductions and contributions to literary history. Those works correspond to the time when Du Bellay, beyond his Pléiade affiliation, was inducted into the canon and taught in French schools with increasing fervor (Chamard 1961 and Saulnier 1968 [both cited under General Introductions]), La mythologie classique dans l’œuvre de la Pléiade [Demerson 1972, cited under Classical and Contemporary Models). This induction into the French canon led to erudite critical editions, in conjunction with a vast body of source-study scholarship—on major classical models and Italian rivals such as Petrarch at first—and rhetorically informed analyses (Castor 1964 [cited under General Introductions], Griffin 1969 [cited under Rhetoric and Poetics]). These two interrelated lines of inquiry persist to this day, along with broader notions of poetics, intertextuality, and imitation (Greene 1982 [cited under Regrets, Antiquitez, Songe], Melehy 2010 [cited under Translation (Linguistic and Cultural)], as well as Noirot 2013 and Rieu 1995 [both cited under Rhetoric and Poetics]). From the 1970s to the 1990s, structuralism and postmodernism’s interest turned to the Angevine as a theorist of language and meaning and a herald of subjectivity. Several critics teased out the wonders of his style with formalist bravura (Questions de poétique [Jakobson 1973, cited under Form(s) and Genres], Deguy 1973 [cited under Form(s) and Genres], Rigolot 1977 [cited under Form(s) and Genres]). The history of ideas also co-opted Du Bellay, highlighting his debt toward humanist academies (beyond firsthand classical influence), medieval allegory, and influential contemporaries such as Erasmus or Ramus (Gadoffre 1978 [cited under Frenchness and Nationhood], Meerhoff, Rhétorique et poétique au XVIe siècle en France [Meerhoff 1986, cited under Rhetoric and Poetics], Roudaut 2014 [cited under Regrets, Antiquitez, Songe]). More recently, interdisciplinary scholars have examined echoes of sociocultural, political, and religious tensions in the œuvre (Alduy 2007 [cited under Form(s) and Genres], Keller 2011 [cited under Translation (Linguistic and Cultural)]; and Hampton 2001, Kennedy 2003, and Hartley 1993 [all cited under Frenchness and Nationhood]). The newest approaches borrow from visual studies, sociology, and anthropology (Berriet 2014 [cited under Rhetoric and Poetics], ecocriticism (Mackenzie 2011 [cited under Frenchness and Nationhood]), the history of emotions (Nazarian 2016 [cited under Classical and Contemporary Models]), and discourse analysis. The overview offered here is organized following major themes in the scholarship of the past one hundred years: Modern Scholarly Editions, General Introductions, Humanism and Imitation, Rhetoric and Poetics, Form(s) and Genres, Du Bellay and Ronsard, and Neo-Latin Poetry.

Modern Scholarly Editions

A steady stream of editions for scholars and general readers appeared from the 1940s to the 2010s, of which only a few can be selected—chiefly for their quality and accessibility. A few critical editions are unfortunately out of print but digitization might bring them back., the digital library portal of the French National Library (BNF), provides digitized (PDF format) versions of nearly all 16th-century editions.

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