Humour and Humanism in the Renaissance: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Humour and Humanism in the Renaissance

1st Edition

By Barbara C. Bowen


314 pages

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Hardback: 9780860789543
pub: 2004-02-28

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Of the articles in this volume, eight concern a world-famous author (François Rabelais); the others are studies of little-known authors (Cortesi, Corrozet, Mercier) or genres (the joke, the apophthegm). The common theme, in all but one, is humour: how it was defined, and how used, by orators and humanists but also by court jesters, princes, peasants and housewives. Though neglected by historians, this subject was of crucial importance to writers as different as Luther, Erasmus, Thomas More and François Rabelais. The book is divided into four sections. 'Humanist Wit' concerns the large and multi-lingual corpus of Renaissance facetiae. The second and third parts focus on French humanist humour, Rabelais in particular, while the last section is titled '"Serious" Humanists' because humour is by no means absent from it. For the Renaissance, as Erasmus and Rabelais amply demonstrate, and as the 'minor' authors studied here confirm, wit, whether affectionate or bitingly satirical, can coexist with, and indeed be inseparable from, serious purpose. Rabelais, as so often, said it best: 'Rire est le propre de l'homme.'


'… the volume is a further tribute to a scholar the breadth and depth of whose researches have long been an example to us all.' Renaissance Studies 'The main reason for scholarly neglect of old jokes is presumably that they are no longer funny, but Bowen reminds us by both precept and example that this does not make them any the less interesting.' Sixteenth Century Journal

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Humanist Wit: Renaissance collections of facetiae, 1344-1490: a new listing; Renaissance collections of facetiae, 1499-1528: a new listing; Roman jokes and the Renaissance prince, 1455-1528; Ciceronian wit and Renaissance rhetoric; The collection of facezie attributed to Angelo Poliziano; Paolo Cortesi's laughing cardinal; Festive humanism: the case of Luscinius; Rabelais: Rire est le propre de l'homme; Rabelais's Panurge as homo rhetoricus; Rabelais et le propos torcheculatif; Lenten eels and Carnival sausages; Bragueta juris: notes sur Rabelais et le droit; Rabelais and the Library of Saint-Victor; Janotus de Bragmardo in the limelight (Gargantua, ch. 19); Rabelais and Folengo once again; French Humanist Humour: 'Honneste' et sens de l'humour au XVIe siècle; Facétie/sententia/apophtegme: les Divers propos memorables de Gilles Corrozet; Tabourot facetus: le sieur Gaulard; 'Lasciuetez' et scatologie: la rhétorique des Escraignes dijonnoises; Béroalde de Verville and the self-destructing book; 'Il faut donner dedans': sexe ou/et rhétorique dans le Moyen de parvenir; 'Serious' Humanists: Geofroy Tory's Champ Fleury and its major sources; Cornelius Agrippa's De vanitate: polemic or paradox?; Jacques Tahureau revisited; Emblems, elephants, and Alexander; Index.

About the Author

Barbara C. Bowen is Professor of French, Emerita, at Vanderbilt University, USA.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General