Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures School of Languages and Cultures

Reading Boileau: An Integrative Study of the Early Satires

Robert T. Corum, Jr.

In French literary history Nicolas Boileau (1636-1701) has enjoyed legendary status as the great codifier of French classicism, the discerning critic who could demolish or elevate several generations of French poets. This view of Boileau's role has lead to an emphasis on his poetics, not his poems, which in turn has generated general disdain for his poetic art.

Robert Corum dispels these misconceptions about Boileau by focusing rigorous critical attention on Boileau's first nine Satires and the accompanying Discours au Roy, composed between 1657 and 1668. His reading takes into account a number of factors, including sources, genesis, relation to one another, coherence, and continuity of argument. This examination reveals Boileau to be a gifted poet, not just a talented versifier or a strait-laced mouthpiece for French classical doctrine.

"In his new study of Boileau's first cycle of satires (1666), Robert Corum suggests that these early poems are not autonomous, disordered units, but rather the balanced constituents of a larger whole....Corum concludes persuasively that Boileau's early satires are in fact a study in character (that of the unifying speaker) rather than merely a tableau of social behavior, but he understates one of the book's most productive insights. The satires ...are finally discursive dramas about themselves as poetic events.... The many strengths of this important book lie precisely in the discovery that Boileau's early satires cohere in the matter of their self-referring language." Jeffrey N. Peters, Papers on French Seventeenth-Century Literature

For the complete review, see Papers on French Seventeenth-Century Literature 27.53 (2000): 609-10.

"Robert Corum's Reading Boileau is a thorough, rigorous, and original reappraisal of an excellent poet all too often maligned for all the wrong reasons. While this book is appropriately focused on Boileau's text, Corum's admirable scholarship complements much recent work and situates Boileau with respect to contemporary critical issues." Michael Vincent, author of Figures of the Text: Reading and Writing (in) La Fontaine

For more reviews, see
Reference & Research Book News
1 Aug. 1998.

Robert T. Corum, Jr., Kansas State University, has published a study of the poetry of Saint-Amant, a critical edition of César de Nostredame's Les Perles ou les Larmes de la Saincte Magdeleine, and articles on Malherbe, Corneille, Théophile de Viau, Tristan l'Hermite, and Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin.

ISBN: 978-1-55753-110-0
1998. PSRL 15. vi, 170 pp. Cloth $24.95 PRICE REDUCED


Information last updated June 24, 2015.

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Robert T. Corum, Jr., at Author Reception, held at the RLA, October 2000. (Photo courtesy of Rita Rud) 

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