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Se mêler d'histoire : Conseils et jugements de l’action politique dans l’histoire-jugement, chez Guillaume du Bellay, Martin du Bellay, Monluc et Montaigne

Abstract : “I, who know nothing, have wanted to meddle in it”: Blaise de Monluc says he “meddles” in historiography in order to distinguish himself from “scholar” historians, as did the Du Bellay brothers who wrote at the same time. But they all express their views about political action through history: they write on history instead of writing history. Therefore Montaigne, in his Essays, emphasizes that one needs to be able to judge between history and the actors of history. The distinction between literary genres that opposes history to memoirs, “commentaries” and “essays”, fails to explain these authors’ relationship to history. I propose to consider this relationship from the perspective of “judging-history”, – a history written by its actors, focusing on political action (“faits” and “dits” in XVIth-century French) and the conseils (“counsels”, i.e. the actors’ designs and deliberations). The first section explains the importance of judging-history during the reign of Francis I, due to the prevalent ideologies and practices of French monarchy at the time, but also due to the contemporaneous revival of philosophical, rhetorical and historiographical traditions which link counsels with discernment (discrétion), speeches (concions) and sincerity (parrhesia). Under Francis I’s reign these practices and traditions were brought together. Indeed, humanists, the nobility of sword and the royal State called for a judging-history intended to train political elites. The second section demonstrates that an author, Guillaume du Bellay de Langey, and his work, the Ogdoades, embodied this hope, reconciling the pen and the sword. Having studied the birth of this unfinished work, I comment on the Ogdoades’s Prologue (edited in this thesis), a manifesto and method which defines the relationships between rhetoric, judgement and political experience within historiography. I then study this method’s implementation in the Ogdoades’s extant passages. The third section focuses on the works of two Langey’s most important heirs: his brother Martin du Bellay’s Memoirs and Monluc’s Commentaries. The artes historicae, in the second half of the XVIth century, emphasize the importance of parrhesia in historical writing: such a stance is not anti-rhetorical, but rather rejects the notion of authors writing as clercs d’armes (“clerks of arms”, i.e., scholars writing on military matters) because in their writings they reveal their lack of political experience. The ars bene dicendi continues to fascinate Martin du Bellay and Monluc, whose writing attempts to be paradoxically eloquent, because it has been stripped of epidictic pageantry; the counsels’ parrhesia make it possible to overcome the dichotomy between bien dire and bien faire – a dichotomy which is often supposed to characterize military memoirs’ poetics. Monluc et Martin du Bellay seek to understand the scope and limits of their own capacities for action. The fourth section examines the role of judging-history and Langey’s legacy in the Essays. For a long time we have known the affinities between Amyot, Bodin and Montaigne, but what we have ignored is Montaigne’s links with the Du Bellays. Such a notion as judging-history allows us to understand the synthetical and yet comprehensive judgments that Montaigne makes on the actors of history. Seeking a way to act in a clear-headed and prudent manner, the essayist examines the possibility to speak and act freely. Therefore, his relationship with politics and rhetoric should be rethought in terms of conseil and discrétion. My conclusion draws a Guillaume du Bellay moment when history was not considered as a study of the past but as the reflective extension of the actors of history’s deliberations and as a way to “dire sur ce qui peut advenir” (talk about what could happen next).
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Lionel Piettre. Se mêler d'histoire : Conseils et jugements de l’action politique dans l’histoire-jugement, chez Guillaume du Bellay, Martin du Bellay, Monluc et Montaigne. Littératures. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2017. Français. ⟨NNT : 2017GREAL033⟩. ⟨tel-01835257⟩

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