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01. FAUST, HOMME RENAISSANCE

01. FAUST, HOMME RENAISSANCE

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Date d'ajout : jeudi 13 juin 2013

par Gary W. JENKINS

REVUE : SIXTEENTH CENTURY JOURNAL, Spring 2013

AUTEUR : Gary W. Jenkins, Eastern University

Theses eight essays comprise the papers of a one-day conference organized by Heinz Raschel of I'Universite de Tours, to whom the editors dedicated the volume. These excel­lent essays present a grand homage. Following the foreword, its dedicatory material, and a precis of the day's program, the introduction sets out the goals and vision of the conference. TI1e texts deliver a more fulsome Faust than can be collected from the lines of Goethe or the drama of Marlowe-more, but not substantially different-and indeed the title of the book is a leitmotif of the text. Faust was of the Renaissance, but the term "Renaissance man" hardly does justice to the complex character found here. The essays treat not just Marlowe's character or Goethe's Romantic expansion of him, but the Faust legend going back to Simon Magus, then to Faust the Manichaean opposite of St. Augustine, and on to the historical Faust, a sixteenth-century necromancer and scholar, alchemist, and aesthete. From there the path wends to the French historian Pierre- Victor Palma -Cayet, condemned for dabbling too rigorously in Hermeticism and alchemy, and then to Judah Rabbi Loew, the Maharal of Prague (d. 1609). In short, whatever the historical Faust was, and whatever he became at both the hands of Marlowe and Goethe, these texts place him in a vortex of thoughts, ideas, traditions, and narratives far beyond a mere Renaissance drama or Romantic verse.
Bernard Pouderon's "Docteur Faust et Maitre Simon" presents the scope of the text by showing how the historical Faust was linked with Simon Magus, the heretical foil of St. Peter both in Acts and in later apocrypha. Pouderon traces the early church's polemic against the arch-Gnostic, calling attention to Simon's accomplice, his Helen of Troy; for Simon this former prostitute was the latest iteration of Helen, who also was the fallen word of God he had come to free. The first Renaissance polemics link Faust to Simon Magus, though they do not present Helen ofTroy as integral to the legend. It is Marlowe who finally does, though largely as part of Faust's spiritual declension; she never assumed the topos Goethe made her.
Richard Hillman's "Christopher Marlowe et la traduction franc;:aise du Faustbuch" looks at the sources for Marlowe. HiIlman shows that Marlowe was not working merely off of the translation of the Faustbook made by the unknown "P. E, gent.:' but was indebted as well to sources, undoubtedly French, that Marlowe knew well, circulating between London
and Paris, and closely associated with Pierre-Victor Palma-Cayet. As Palma-Cayet had been a Protestant connected with Henri II, Marlowe may possibly have lmown him. But Palma­Cayet's own translation of the Faustbuch did not appear till 1598, too late for Marlowe's play. Hillrnan demonstrates that Marlowe and Palma-Cayet were at least working from similar sources that diverge from botl1 the Faustbuch and the English translation of"P. F:'
Marc Petit's essay brings the reader within contemporary criticism, particularly to Andre Neher's work on Rabbi Loew, the Maharal of Prague. Petit marks the affinities between R. Loew and Faust, and focuses on the arcane aspects of each persona. Petit dis­tinguishes the two emphatically, however, with respect to R. Loew's ability to animate the Golem. Unlike Faust, his actions, though magical, arise within the cabalistic tradition, and have none of the nefarious and diabolical attached to them that is Faust's default.
Ulrich Gaier's "Renaissance-Griinde fUr Goethes Fausf" highlights the Renaissance sources for Faust, but also treats the revolutionary character of Faust. Faust stands athwart modern times, averse to the bourgeois and plastic culture the Renaissance birthed. The emperor Charles IV is indicted for trading the power of empire for the promises ofRenais­sance wealth, and the conjuring ofHelen is likened to the phantom of paper money. Beyond this, Goethe's Faust also arises from the freedom inherent in the Renaissance Platonists (e.g., Ficino and Pico), and the natural ability to attain divine properties and, indeed, the very divine nature.
Steffen Schneider's "Faust, der Unruhige:' also places Goethe's Faust character within the Renaissance, noting that the restlessness and energy found in Montaigne, Bruno, and Agrippa of Nettesheim, inter alia, characterize Faust. Schneider also commandeers the thought of Pico and Ficino about humanity's infinity, and Faust's inveterate striving that arises there from. Such dispositions have Faust caught between knowledge and feelings, but also in rebellion against God and Christianity by taking up Mephistopheles's bet.
Jean Lacoste's '''Un exces d'effronterie: Un Faust Rabelaisien?" also links Faust to the Renaissance, seeing the repeated carnival structures in Goethe as harkening back to Rabe­lais. Lacoste calls attention (as do other authors) to the anti-Catholic character of the Faust­buch (see what happens when you are a Catholic: you make pacts with the devil) and also to the anti-intellectual character of Goethe's Faust, who despairs of knowledge and whose hope seems now in the arcana of nefarious deals. But it is the revolutionary Faust that shines forth (the creation of land for the Greeks at the end of the poem), and this eruptive, chaotic force links hin1 with the Rabelaisian carnival.
Hans Jurgen Schings's contribution looks at Goethe's Faust as a new paradigm for sal­vation, casting Faust as the new humanity and Mephistopheles as the mistake of creation. The new creation overcomes, in a Saint -Sin1onian manner, the new horrors of the bourgeois world. Jacques Le Rider's piece closes the book, looking at Nietzsche's ironic ambivalence toward Goethe's Faust. Nietzsche preferred Byron's Manfred, for Faust fell short of the ancient Greek ideal of the Renaissance; as he could transcend neither God nor Mephis­topheles, he was more a Reformation than a Renaissance character.


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