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Moving from a definition of the lyric to the innovations introduced by Petrarch's poetic language, this study goes on to propose a new reading of several French poets (Charles d'Orléans, Ronsard, and Du Bellay), and a re-evaluation of Montaigne's understanding of the most striking poetry and its relation to his own prose. Instead of relying on conventional notions of Renaissance subjectivity, it locates recurring features of this poetic language that express a turn to the singular and that herald lyric poetry's modern emphasis on the utterly particular. By combining close textual analysis with more modern ethical concerns this study establishes clear distinctions between what poets do and what rhetoric and poetics say they do. It shows how the tradition of rhetorical commentary is insufficient in accounting for this startling effectiveness of lyric poetry, manifest in Petrarch's Rime Sparse and the collections of the best poets writing after him.
At the time he was writing his books, by and large the humanist political thought Rabelais would have been familiar with did not see much of an alternative to monarchy, or rule by one person. This was the case even if political thinkers insisted on limits set upon the prince's powers, even if, in addition, the city of Venice provided a living example of a republic and although, finally, the other relatively recent republics of northern-central Italy had an immense impact on French artistic and intellectual culture. The intellectual justifications for monarchy were ultimately derived from Aristotle and Plutarch, and were founded not on a secular theory of justice or rights, nor even primarily on an empirical calculus of how to maximize human happiness, but instead on monarchy's resemblance to divine creation and to various phenomena in nature. Thus, the (good) monarch has some semblance of God (imago deitatis, or dei simulachrum): just as God alone is set above creation, so the king is placed above his subjects.