Quarrel of the Novel

Dates 1670 - 1701

Fiche rédigée par Neus Rotger . Dernière mise à jour le 27 April 2015.

Synopsis

Synopsis

In 1670, the founding member of the Académie Française Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin published La Comparaison de la langue et de la poésie françoise avec la grecque et la latine, et des Poëtes Grecs, Latins et François, the first of a series of polemical pamphlets against antiquity. With this series of texts, which include the Discours pour prouver que les sujets chrétiens sont les seuls propres à la poësie Heroïque (1673), La Défense du poème héroïque (1674), Le Triomphe de Louis et de son siècle (1674) and La Défense de la poésie et de la langue française (1675), dedicated to Charles Perrault, Desmarets set the tone for what he referred to as a ruthless “guerre d’esprit” between the advocates, like himself, of the superiority of French language and poetry and the defenders of the ancient Greek and Latin models.

The Quarrel of the Novel opened in this context – that of the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes – and with this very same series of texts. For Desmarets, a celebrated novelist as much as a royal court poet and playwright, both modern epic poetry – as in his Clovis, ou La France chrétienne (1653, 1673) – and the novel are championed as one of the most conclusive proofs of the Moderns’ advantage over the Ancients. With this exaltation of novel as a typical modern form, Desmarets is both reacting against and responding to one of the main proponents of classical epic, Nicolas Boileau, whose mockery of the improbability and ridiculous gallantry of the French roman – in his Dialogue des héros de roman (written around 1666, first published in 1688), and in his Art poétique (1674) – was felt by Desmarets as a personal attack.

Close to Desmarets’ position in favour of the novel, and also in response to Boileau’s critique of the genre, the renowned classical scholar Pierre-Daniel Huet wrote the Traité de l’origine des romans, an erudite defense of the novel published in 1670 and reissued and extended several times until 1711. Huet’s definition of the novel is partially based on Desmarets’s, although the latter praised the genre for its novelty whereas Huet defends the dignity of the novel in terms of its antiquity, taking the origins of the genre back to classical epic.

The battle for the novel, be it considered a modern or an ancient form, continued at least until the end of the century, always with the epic model as a mirror against which to evaluate the pros and cons of the genre. The quarrel of La princesse de Clèves (1678) is a key episode of this debate, especially in the arguments in favour and against the novel displayed by Jean-Baptiste Henri Du Trousset de Valincour in his Lettres à Mme la Marquise *** sur le sujet de la Princesse de Clèves (1678), by his opponent Jean-Antoine de Charnes in his Conversations sur la critique de la ‘Princesse de Clèves’ (1679) and by the unknown Du Plaisir in his Sentiments sur les lettres et sur l’histoire (1683).

The dispute over the novel – its legitimacy, its value – went on after Charles Perrault’s attack against Homer and the classical epic in Le siècle de Louis le Grand (1687). In direct response to Perrault’s “poème de la discorde”, François de Callières wrote the Histoire poétique de la guerre nouvellement déclarée entre les Anciens et les Modernes (1688), where he praises the French novel in opposition to the classical epic. In the same context, Perrault’s fellow detractor of the ancients, Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle, also argued in favour of the novel in his Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes (1688). And Perrault himself, to whom Desmarets had asked for support in the defense of the moderns, again contended for the superiority of the novel above all ancient forms in his Paralèlle des Anciens et des Modernes (1688-1697).

The end of the dispute was signaled by a letter Boileau wrote to Perrault around 1698, and published in 1701. With this conciliatory letter, with which Boileau intended to put his «Duel Grammatical» with Perrault to an end, the leader of the Ancients states his recognition of the novel as a modern literary form, although the controversy over the genre remained open and very much alive.

Enjeux

Enjeux

The Quarrel of the Novel can be considered one of the most fruitful and relevant critical activities within the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. It confronts defenders and critics of the novel in a debate about the history, poetics and dignity of the genre, and it does so with the same rationale as the Querelle–using its terms of combat, so to speak. This does not imply, however, a symmetrical relation between the different agencies in dispute: none of the two conflicting parties in the quarrel of the novel can be considered as members of neatly opposed factions, nor can their causes be directly aligned with those of the Ancients and Moderns. Moreover, not all the champions of the novel subscribe to the Modern’s norms and ideals, just as not all of the Ancients constitute a uniform block against the genre. It is fairly common for a particular author to contradict himself or change his mind in the course of the dispute or for the same critique or defense of the novel to be used in conflicting sides of the quarrel.

The quarrel focuses on seventeenth-century France, at a time when Paris was the undisputed capital of the Republic of Letters, but the full scope of the debate is European and expands from the Italian controversy over the romanzo in the second half of the sixteenth century to the eighteenth-century English “romance wars”. Travelling at different speeds throughout early modern Europe, the dispute about the novel encompasses various genres of literary criticism, from formal essays and treatises to prefaces, dialogues, pamphlets and letters – fictional or otherwise. A rich web of texts that delivers a key to the understanding of the novel, the problem of its origins and the process of its canon formation.

Chronologie

Chronologie

• 1670-1673 : publication of Desmarets’ pamphlets.

• ca. 1670 : circulation of Boileau’s « Dialogue des héros de roman ».

• 1670 : publication of Huet’s Traité.

• 1674 : publication of Boileau’s Art poétique.

• 1675 : publication of Desmarets’ response to Boileau.

• 1678 : publication of Valincour’s Lettres à Mme la Marquise *** sur le sujet de la Princesse de Clèves.

• 1679 : publication of Charnes’ response to Valincour.

• 1683 : publication of Du Plaisir’s Sentiments sur les lettres et sur l’histoire.

• 1687 : publication of Perrault’s Le siècle de Louis le Grand.

• 1688 : publication of Callières’ response to Perrault.

• 1688 : publication of Fontenelle’s Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes.

• 1688 : publication of Boileau’s « Dialogue des héros de roman ».

• 1688-1697: publication of Perrault’s Paralèlle des Anciens et des Modernes.

• 1701 : publication of Boileau’s « Lettre à Perrault ».

Noms propres

Noms propres

Références

Références

Corpus

• Boileau, Nicolas, « Dialogue des héros de roman », in Œuvres complètes, [Paris, Esprit Billiot, 1713, vol. 2, 123-180] éd. F. Escal, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1966.

• Boileau, Nicolas, Art poétique, in Œuvres diverses du sieur D***, avec le Traité du sublime ou du merveilleux dans le discours, traduit du grec de Longin, Paris, D. Thierry, 1674.

• Boileau, Nicolas, « Lettre à Perrault », in Œuvres complètes, [Paris, Esprit Billiot, 1713, vol. 2, 43-58] éd. F. Escal, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1966.

• Callières, François de, Histoire poëtique de la guerre nouvellement declarée entre les anciens et les modernes, Paris, Pierre Auboüin, Pierre Emery, Charles Clousier, 1688.

• Charnes, Jean-Antoine (abbé de), Conversations sur la critique de la ‘Princesse de Clèves’, Lyon, Thomas Amaulry, 1679.

• Desmarets, Jean, La Comparaison de la langue et de la poésie française, avec la grecque et la latine, et des poètes grecs, latins, et français, Paris, Thomas Jolly, 1670.

• Desmarets, Jean, Discours pour prouver que les sujets chrétiens sont les seuls propres à la poësie Heroïque, in Clovis, ou La France chrétienne, 3e éd., Paris, Claude Cramoisy, 1673.

• Desmarets, Jean, La Défense du poème héroïque avec quelques remarques sur les œuvres satyriques du sieur D***. Dialogues en vers et en prose, Paris, Jacques Le Gras, Nicolas Le Gras, Augustin Besoigne, Claude Audinet, 1674.

• Desmarets, Jean, Le Triomphe de Louis et de son siècle. Poëme Lyrique, Dedié au Roy, Paris, Jacques Le Gras, Nicolas Le Gras, Augustin Besoigne, Claude Audinet, 1674.

• Desmarets, Jean, La Défense de la Poésie, et de la langue française, adressée à Monsieur Perrault, Paris, Nicolas Le Gras, Claude Audinet, 1675.

• Du Plaisir, Sentiments sur les lettres et sur l’histoire, [Paris, C. Blageart, G. Quinet, 1683] éd. Ph. Hourcade, Genève, Droz, 1975.

• Fontenelle, Bernard Le Bovier de, Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes, [in Poésies pastorales. Avec un Traité sur la Nature de l’Églogue, et une Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes (1re éd., 1688), Paris, Michel Brunet, 1698] Œuvres complètes, éd. A. Niderst, Tours, Fayard, 1990-1998.

• Huet, Pierre-Daniel, Traité de l’origine des romans, Paris, Claude Barbin, 1670. Huitième édition publiée en 1711.

• Perrault, Charles, Le Siècle de Louis le Grand, [Paris, Jean-Baptiste Coignard, 1687] in La Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes. XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles, éd. A.-M. Lecoq, Paris, Gallimard, 2001.

• Perrault, Charles, Parallèle des Anciens et des Modernes, en ce qui regarde les arts et les sciences, 4 vols, Paris, Coignard, 1693-1697.

• Valincour, Jean-Baptiste Henri Du Trousset (sieur de), Lettres à Mme la Marquise *** sur le sujet de la Princesse de Clèves, Paris, S. Mabre-Cramoisy, 1678.

Bibliographie critique

• Berger, Günter, Pour ou contre le roman: anthologie du discours théorique sur la fiction narrative en prose au xviie siècle, Seattle, PFSCL, Biblio 17, 1996.

• DeJean, Joan, Ancients against Moderns. Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siècle, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1997.

• Esmein-Sarrazin, Camille (éd.), Poétiques du roman. Scudéry, Huet, Du Plaisir et autres textes théoriques et critiques du xviie siècle sur le genre romanesque, Paris, Champion, 2004.

• Rotger, Neus, The Quarrel of the Novel. Dispute and Creation in Early Modern France, Ph.D Dissertation, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2014.

Liens

Liens

Liens vers d'autres querelles associées

Princesse de Clèves (querelle de)

Anciens et Modernes (querelle des)

Homère en France (querelle d')

Merveilleux (querelle du)

Romanzo (controverse autour du)

Romance wars