Professor Frame's great virtue as a Rabelais critic is an ability to roll with the punches--that is, to look for unity in...

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FRANCOIS RABELAIS: A Study

Professor Frame's great virtue as a Rabelais critic is an ability to roll with the punches--that is, to look for unity in disunity, following the mad successions of personae and voices rather than putting up signs saying ""Comic,"" ""Elevated,"" and ""Inconsistent."" His approach to current Rabelais scholarship is equally equable and eclectic. Without collapsing into anything-goes vapidity, he manages to suggest harmonious accommodations among a surprising variety of opinions. To call the book a ""study"" is perhaps misleading; it is really a collection of useful notes and synopses. Frame first loosely surveys Rabelais' life and the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel, summarizing the major strands of opinion on circumstances of composition, topical allusions, unifying principles, and--in the case of Book Five--textual authenticity. He then trots out a mixed bag of subsidiary aspects--e.g., stylistic effects, the question of obscenity, the ""giantism"" of the giants. This organization is in many ways unfortunate. Important issues often end up as lists or wooden manipulation of categories rather than broadly developed arguments. When Frame announces that Book Four ""includes, besides comedy and ideas (especially religious) a great deal of satire and fantasy"" and then enumerates examples of each element in the manner of an election canvasser, one misses precisely that sense of living interplay that he celebrates elsewhere. Even the attempt to show the philosophy of ""Fay ce qua vouldras"" (Do what you will) at work today in the thinking of Maslow and A. S. Neill never opens up into a real exploration of ideas. Only a few central points--Frame's emphasis on Rabelais' moderate ""Evangelical"" sympathies and his insistence on the Rabelaisian balance of moods and voices--triumph over the peculiar chunkiness and over-division of his organization. This will be an extremely useful book for students seeking a sane orientation in the murky realms of Rabelaisiana, but it could easily have been an invaluable introduction for a much broader audience.

Pub Date: July 12, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1977