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Emily Butterworth, Negotiating Hypocrisy in Sixteenth-Century France
1 November, 2018 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
Hypocrisy was, according to William Bouwsma, the characteristic vice of the late Renaissance and early modernity, denounced everywhere from pulpit to essay. Primarily a religious concern – and given urgent and virulent expression in confessional polemic – it was also a political one – with concerns of Machiavellian dissimulation particularly focused, in France, on the Italian queen Catherine de Medici. Both these strands are investigated by two writers, Marguerite de Navarre and Michel de Montaigne, both intimately involved in the religion and politics of the French sixteenth century, the first before, and the second during the violent implosion of both in the Wars of Religion. Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron takes an uncompromising line on religious hypocrisy, while suggesting that there may be a place for it, socially, in what is fundamentally a fallen world. Montaigne denounces hypocrisy as a corruption peculiar to his violent times, while probing (via Plutarch’s essay on the flatterer) the limits of frankness and sincerity. These two case studies demonstrate the ambiguities, and even the uses, of hypocrisy at a time when unreflective criticism of it was becoming a moral commonplace.
Dr Emily Butterworth (King’s College London) is Reader in Early Modern French, with a particular research interest in deviant speech.