Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 October 2020
Renaissance symbolic representations of gender identity and sexual difference appear firmly grounded in the medieval and Neoplatonic misogynist tradition, no matter how unacceptable the terms of that tradition may be to modern sensibility. In Rabelais's works the exemplarity of Christian humanist discourse often coincides with what today is considered profoundly disturbing behavior. The recurrence of trickery, obscenity, and violence against women does not seem to bother the Rabelaisian narrator, who gleefully presents his writings as “beaux textes d'évangilles en françoys” ‘fine gospel texts in French.’ I concentrate on a single episode of Pantagruel, the one devoted to Panurge's and Pantagruel's twin amatory adventures with a lady of Paris. Although the episode has been the object of some probing critical scrutiny, little attention has been paid to the biblical intertext, which Rabelais's humanist entourage must easily have recognized and which can be read in the context of what modern critics have come to recognize as the Renaissance crisis of exemplarity.