Literary Manifestations of the Androgyne

  • Marian Rothstein
Chapter

Abstract

The frequency, variety, and complexity of the literary manifestations of the androgyne are markers of the degree to which it was absorbed into early-modern French thought and culture. That it was shaped by a variety of forces—Christian and pagan, biblical, philosophical, and poetic—made it all the more attractive. Its literary appearances can be broadly classified into three modes: physical, spiritual, and marital. The physical androgyne focuses on the joining of two bodies, temporarily approximating the repaired condition of the creature in Plato’s myth, most often understood in physical terms as a coital androgyne.1

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The expression physical androgyne here refers to imagining two bodies temporarily joined. It excludes cases in which one body permanently possesses two sexes—those are hermaphrodites—so poems like Jean Dorat’s “Androgyn,” describing just such a hermaphrodite, fall outside the purview of this study. For more on that work, see Dudley Wilson and Ann Moss, “Portents, Prophesy and Poetry in Dorat’s Androgyn poem of 1570,” in Neo-Latin and the Vernacular in Renaissance France, ed. Grahame Castor and Terence Cave (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), pp. 156–73. Dorat made another use of the Androgyne in a short Latin poem praising Henri II’s edit du semestre, a short-lived attempt, in 1554, to double the number of members of the Parlement de Paris by requiring each member to sit full time for six months in the hopes of making them more compliant to his wishes. The first twenty-one lines are a summary of Aristophanes tale. In the second half of the poem (ll.22–41) Henri II becomes Jupiter, splitting the body in two; in fact he combines the roles Plato accords Zeus and Apollo. Etienne de La Boétie wrote a opposing response, also with glancing refences to Plato’s Androgyne: the king’s changes makes the cure worse than the disease, leaving twice as many magistrates, well rested, ready to oppose him. Both poems seem to count on readers’ familiarity with Plato’s Androgyne to advance their political position. See Michel Magnien, “Un échange entre Dorat et La Boetie” in Jean Dorat: Poète humaniste de la Renaissance, ed. Christine de Buzon and Jean-Eudes Girot (Geneva: Droz, 2007), pp.369–92.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pietro Bembo, Les Azolains de Monseigneur Bembo, trans. Jehan Martin (Paris: Vascosan, 1545)Google Scholar
  3. Pietro Bembo, Les Azolains/Gli Asolani, ed. Carlo Dionisotto, trans., Marie-France Piéjus (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2006). In keeping with a focus on conditions and reception in sixteenth-century France, I have chosen to quote from French translations of the period whenever possible.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Pietro Bembo, Gli Asolani, ed. Giorgio Dilemmi (Florence: Accademeia della Crusca, 1991), book 2, sec. 11, p.140 for an edition based on the 1505 text. Carlo Dionisotti’s edition is reproduced in Les Azolains/Gli Asolani (2006); its text is based on the Venice 1553 edition, the last to be overseen by Bembo’s literary executors. The discrepancy makes it clear that Martin in 1545 used an Italian edition printed before 1530.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
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  6. 12.
    Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Charles S. Singleton (New York: Doubleday, 1959), p.216 (emphasis mine). I have replaced Singleton’s confuse in the last sentence with conflate, as what is meant is just that, they are melded together, made one.Google Scholar
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  8. 14.
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  9. 16.
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  13. 18.
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  15. 19.
    Floyd Gray, Gender, Rhetoric, and Print Culture in French Renaissance Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p.149. To these, one could contrast Frédérique Villemur, who astonishingly sees the badge as a mark of philautia in “Eros et Androgyne: La Femme comme un autre soy-mesme,” in Royaume de Fémynie: Pouvoirs, contraintes, espaces de liberté des femmes, de la Renaissance à la Fronde, ed. Kathleen Wilson-Chevalier and Eliane Viennot (Paris: Champion, 1999), p. 249.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Daniel Russell, The Emblem and Device in France (Lexington, KY: French Forum, 1985) sets forth the ground rules for the consideration of such a device: that it was at once personal—one image might be used by different people with varying mottos for different purposes—and public, in the sense that it made claims for the virtues of the wearer with the intent of conveying these ideas (pp.24–28). See also Screech, Rabelais, pp. 142–43.Google Scholar
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  18. 26.
    See Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), pp. 82–104.Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    The expression autre moitié does occur at least once to my knowledge, many years earlier, presumably as a sign of recognition of the marital androgyne in an anonymous 1509 “Éloge de Louis XII”: “Et a soulager et adoulcir le desir que avions de vous absent, avez laissé la tres chrestienne Royne, vostre compaigne, comme ung autre tel que vous et ung autre soustenement du Royaume, de telle majesté et si auguste courage que ne sentyions vostre absence, si non que la moitié de vous estoit en elle demeurée, pareillement la moitié d’elle en vous” [To comfort and moderate the desire we have for you in your absence, you have left the most Christian Queen, your companion, as another like you and another support of the realm of such majesty and august character that we do not feel your absence, given the half of you that remains in her, and equally the half of her in you] (René de Maulde, “Éloge de Louis XII,” Revue historique 43 [1890]: 58 [italics mine]. See also Georges Gougenheim, “La Déchéance d’un terme platonicien,” in Mélanges Gamillscheg (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1957), pp.44–50.Google Scholar
  20. 30.
    Louis Le Roy, trans., Le Sympose de Platon ou de l’amour et de beaute, Traduit de Grec en Francois avec trois livres de commentaires extraictz de toute Philosophie (Paris: Sertenas, 1559), sig.O1r: “Vray est qu’il n’a du tout suivi Platon, comme chacun pourra congnoistre en les conferant: mais c’est joué poetiquement, en ostant et adjoustant ainsi que bon luy sembloit.”Google Scholar
  21. 36.
    On the unio, see Evelien Chayes, L’Éloquence des pierres précieuses: de Marbode de Rennes à Alard d’Amsterdam et Remy Belleau: sur quelques lapidaires du XVIe siècle (Paris: Champion, 2010), especially pp.49, 89.Google Scholar
  22. 38.
    Joachim Du Bellay, Œuvres poétiques, ed. Henri Chamard and Yvonne Bellenger (Paris: Nizet, 1989), vol. 1, p. 142.Google Scholar
  23. André Gendre, “Vade-mecum sur le pétrarquisme français,” Versants 7 (1985): 37–65.Google Scholar
  24. 60.
    Louise Labé, Œuvres Complètes, ed. François Rigolot (Paris: Flammarion, 1986), p.70. Labé’s work was published in 1555, although it was probably composed somewhat earlier, starting in the late 1540s; 1548 is the date suggested by Rigolot.Google Scholar
  25. 62.
    Joachim Du Bellay, “Contre les Petraquistes,” in Divers Jeux rustiques, ed. Henri Chamard (1558; Paris: Didier, 1947), p.74, ll.135–36.Google Scholar
  26. 63.
    Joachim Du Bellay, “Elégie d’amour,” in Divers Jeux rustiques, ed. Henri Chamard (1558; Paris: Didier, 1947), p. 79.Google Scholar
  27. 65.
    Pontus de Tyard, Œuvres complètes, ed. Eva Kushner et al., vol. 1 (Paris: Champion, 2004), p. 118.Google Scholar
  28. 67.
    Eva Kushner, Pontus de Tyard et son œuvre poétique (Paris: Champion, 2001), p.121 n. 163.Google Scholar
  29. 74.
    Guy Demerson, La Mythologie classique dans l’œuvre lyrique de la Pléiade (Geneva: Droz, 1972), p. 169.Google Scholar
  30. Isidore Silver, Ronsard’s Philosophic Thought (Geneva: Droz, 1992) provides a starting list of Ronsard’s references to the sensual androygyne (cited by volume and page numbers of Laumonier edition of Ronsard’s Oeuvres complètes): 4:110, 155; 10:119–21; 15:214–15; 17: 190, 213, 229, 230. This includes indirect references such as those to a moitié that offer very little to enrich the present discussion. In none are the possibilities inherent in the androgyne exploited with any complexity.Google Scholar
  31. 75.
    Pierre de Ronsard, “Hylas,” in Oeuvres Complètes, ed. Paul Laumonier, Isidore Silver, and Raymond Lebègue, vol. 15 (Paris: Didier, 1957, pp.242–43. The poem was dedicated to Jean Passerat, soon after named Professeur d’éloquence at the Collège de France.Google Scholar
  32. 76.
    W. H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Leipzig: Teubner, 1916–1925), vol. 5, s.v. “Telamon.”Google Scholar
  33. 79.
    On Le Roy’s translation, see Kenneth Lloyd-Jones, “‘Cest exercice de traduire’: Humanist Hermeneutic in Louis Le Roy’s Translations of Plato,” in Recapturing the Renaissance: New Perspectives on Humanism, Dialogue, and Texts, ed. Diane S. Wood and Paul A. Miller (Knoxville, TN: New Paradigm Press, 1996), pp. 85–106.Google Scholar
  34. 84.
    On the subject in general, see Guy Poirier, L’Homosexualité dans l’imaginaire de la Renaissance (Paris: Champion, 1996).Google Scholar
  35. Philip Ford, “The Androgyne Myth in Montaigne’s De l’amitié” in The Art of Reading: Essays in memory of Dorothy Gabe Coleman, ed. Philip Ford and Gillian Jondorf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 65–74.Google Scholar
  36. 87.
    Etienne Jodelle, Œuvres complètes, ed. Enea Balmas (Paris: Gallimard, 1965), 1: 369.Google Scholar
  37. 88.
    Todd W. Reeser, “Fracturing the Male Androgyne in the Heptaméron,” Romance Quarterly 51 no.1 (Winter 2004): 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 96.
    Joachim Du Bellay “Sur la Mort de sa Gelonis,” Œuvres poétiques, ed. Henri Chamard (Paris: Nizet, 1983), 5:pp.27–34.Google Scholar
  39. 101.
    Guillaume du Bartas, La Sepmaine ou Creation du monde, ed. Jean Céard, vol.1, ed. Denis Bjai (Paris: Garnier, 2011), pp. 332–33.Google Scholar

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© Marian Rothstein 2015

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