Representation and illusion in the elegies of Thodore de Bze

Paul White

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In 1548, before his conversion to Protestantism, Thodore de Bze published a collection of Latin poetry containing a book of twelve elegies written in imitation of Ovid. He would later disown his youthful love poems as frivolous, and his Catholic and Lutheran opponents would gleefully cite them as evidence of his moral and theological bankruptcy. This article proposes first to read the poems on their own terms, as a thoroughly Ovidian collection. Bzes elegiac persona, like that of his model Ovid, is fascinated by the reflective and distorting properties of words, and his manipulations and evasions constantly tease the reader with glimpses of an elusive self. The article also sets the Elegies in the context of the theological polemic that arose around them, and poses the question of whether these poems, highly literary contrivances that they are, ought to be taken as seriously as Bzes religious opponents wanted them to be. It argues that Bzes elaborations of the characteristically Ovidian elegiac themes of the duplicity of language, the unreliability of perceptions, and the play of absence and presence do indeed seem to anticipate anxieties about representation of the self that would become a feature of later Protestant writing. © 2012 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages10
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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