User:Jahsonic/Notes on reading Rabelais and His World  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Notes on reading Rabelais and His World (1968 edition, tr. Hélène Iswolsky, Rabelais translations by Jacques LeClercq):


Contrary to my findings, Bakhtin only counts 153 for the praise (blason) and 150 for the abuse (counterblason), see blason and contreblason du couillon. Other long lists of Rabelais include the asswipe methods and the hundreds of epithets for the fool Triboulet.


Historia de Nemine is a text written by Rodulfus Glaber in which Nemo (nobody) is personified to comic effect. It is discussed in Rabelais and His World (pp 413-15). Thus, Nemo (nobody) saw God becomes 'Nemo saw God.'


[Nature is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere] "is taken from Hermes Trismegistes, is found in the Roman de la Rose, in Saint Bonaventure of Beauvais and in other authors; this definition was current in the days of Rabelais."

Hippocratic face


"Greensauce" "set[s] the belly in apple–pie order, so a man could belch, fart, poop, piddle, shit, sneeze, sob, cough, throw up, yawn, puff, inhale, exhale, snort, sweat and wangle the ferrule to his heart's content."


Words like oozing, pus, saliva, sperm are not found in the text.


Transgress/ion is only found six times.


The Asses's Will and the Treatise of Garcia of Toledo, a parody of relics are both referenced


On topography, local legends and giants, see Gargantua's Finger and The Titan's Goblet.

"Most local legends connect such natural phenomena as mountains, rivers, rocks, and islands with the bodies of giants or with their different organs; these bodies are, therefore, not separated from the world or from nature."
a "sixteenth-century document states that there was in Bourges an immense rock scooped out like a bowl which was known as Scutella gigantis, the giant's cup." , see Salomon Reinach , Cultes, Mythes et Religions, T. III: Les monuments de pierre brute dans le langage et les croyances populaires, pp. 364 - 433; see also Sébillot P. Le Folklore de France, t. I, pp. 300 - 412. ]

Gaping, as in gaping mouth is mentioned about ten times. Dismemberment about twenty times. The gaping mouth is also a favorite of Goya, see User:Jahsonic/The gaping mouths of Goya.



I'd previously misinterpreted How Panurge showed a very new way to build the walls of Paris.


In the querelle des femmes, Rabelais was part of the "the Gallic tradition" (tradition gauloise); "this is the medieval concept, a negative attitude toward woman. The second line, which Abel Lefranc calls the "idealizing tradition," exalts womanhood."

Rabelais belonged to the Gallic tradition, he was on the misogynist side. See Gratien Dupont, Seigneur de Drusac, wrote the Controversies of the Masculine and Feminine Sexes in 1533. See also courtly love.


Nowhere in the book does Bakhtin define the notion of the grotesque. The word first appears as grotesque realism in the following excerpt:

"...the images of the material bodily principle in the work of Rabelais (and of the other writers of the Renaissance) are the heritage, only somewhat modified by the Renaissance, of the culture of folk humor. They are the heritage of that peculiar type of imagery and, more broadly speaking, of that peculiar aesthetic concept which is characteristic of this folk culture and which differs sharply from the aesthetic concept of the following ages. We shall call it conditionally the concept of grotesque realism." (p. 18)

On the "Malbrough theme"

"In world literature and especially in anonymous oral tradition we find many examples of the interweaving of death throes and the act of defecation."

On Romantic grotesque

Bakhtin compares the Rabelaisian grotesque with the Romantic grotesque (of Bonaventura’s Night Watches and Hoffman’s Night Tales) and notes that the latter lacks the powers of regeneration of the former. The romantic grotesque is the subject of Romantic Agony. --J. W. Geerinck

Jean Paul defines the Romantic grotesque even more sharply in his "Introduction to Aesthetics," (Vorschule der Aesthetik). He does not use the term grotesque ...

On "reduced laughter"

"The genres of reduced laughter — humor, irony, sarcasm — which were to develop as stylistic components of serious literature (especially the novel) were also ..."

Bakhtin (1968) ... by analyzing a series of words all beginning with 'R': renewal, rebirth, regeneration, reconstruction, and revitalization. --Organizations and Popular Culture


Bakhtin on other books: "But all this enormous bulk of literature, with only a few exceptions, is devoid of theoretical pathos. It does not seek to make any broad and firmly established generalizations."

Theoretical pathos is an oxymoron.


Bakhtin on the metaphor of "pregnant death":

One of Bakhtin's most vivid images of the grotesque body is his description of the Kerch terracotta figurines representing senile, pregnant hags:

This is typical and very strongly expressed grotesque. It is ambivalent. It is pregnant death, a death that gives birth. There is nothing completed, nothing calm and stable in the bodies of these old hags. They combine senile, decaying and deformed flesh with the flesh of new life, conceived but as yet unformed (p.26).
"the monster, death, becomes pregnant. Various deformities, such as protruding bellies, enormous noses, or humps, are symptoms of pregnancy or of procreative power." (p. 91)

Antique humor Rabelais was familiar with was Democritus, Hippocrates, Lucian


Jules Michelet on Rabelais

“Rabelais collected wisdom from the popular elemental forces of the ancient Provencal idioms, sayings, proverbs, school farces, from the mouth of fools and clowns. But refracted by this foolery, the genius of the age and its prophetic power are revealed in all their majesty. If he does not discover, he foresees, he promises, he directs. Under each tiny leaf of this forest of dreams, the fruit which the future will harvest lies hidden. This entire book is a golden bough.”

French original:

Le procédé de Rabelais est justement celui de Paracelse. Pour guérir le peuple, il s'adresse au peuple, lui demande ses recettes; pas un remède de berger, de juif, de sorcier, de nourrice, que Paracelse ait dédaigné. Rabelais a de même recueilli la sagesse au courant populaire des vieux patois, des dictons, des proverbes, des farces d'étudiants, dans la bouche des simples et des fous. Et, à travers ces folies, apparaissent dans leur grandeur et le génie du siècle et sa force prophétique. Où il ne trouve encore, il entrevoit, il promet, il dirige. Dans la forêt des songes, on voit sous chaque feuille des fruits que cueillera l'avenir. Tout ce livre est le rameau d'or. --Histoire de France

Citing Realism Epochy Vozrozhedenya (L.E. Pinsky – Realism of the Renaissance, 1961)

In the grotesque, life passes through all the degrees, from the lowest, inert and primitive, to the highest, most mobile and spiritualized; this garland of various forms bears witness to their oneness, brings together that which is removed, combines elements which exclude each other, contradicts all current conceptions. Grotesque in art is related to the paradox in logic. At first glance, the grotesque is merely witty and amusing, but it contains great potentialities.

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