Quelques figures de monstres tragiques dans la littérature française des XVIe et XVIIe siècles.
GRAHAM, ANNE GILLIAN
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This thesis explores the relationship between the monster and the tragic in 16th and 17th century French literature, in particular through the analysis of the figure of the tragic monster. We borrowed the term “tragic monster” from F. Dupont (Monstres de Sénèque) and we have elaborated this concept in conjunction with the structure of Ancient Greek and Roman tragedy, composed of dolor, furor, néfas and the tragic monster. Our first chapter explores the many connotations associated with the monster in 16th and 17th century France (prodigious births, grotesques, and monstrous heroes of Greek and Roman tragedy) and establishes the similarities between the scenario of Ancient tragedy and the story of the Fall of man. In our second chapter, we take note of the coincidence between monstrous form and monstrous behaviour in Aubigné’s depiction of France as a “monstrous giant” in Les Tragiques and also demonstrate the strong connection between the tragic and the monstrous for Aubigné. In chapter three, a comparison of Bèze’s Abraham sacrifiant to the medieval treatment of the story of Abraham and Isaac reveals the concept of the tragic monster as an innovation that Bèze develops from his Greek and Roman models. We also note the important differences between Bèze’s biblical tragedy and his models. In chapter four we follow the tragic arc of both Thésée and Phèdre in Racine’s Phèdre, highlighting the importance of self-knowledge in this play and that of lucidity for the concept of the tragic monster. In chapter five, lucidity continues to be a major theme as Pascal attempts to convert his reader by impressing upon him his status as a “monstre incompréhensible” in Les Pensées. In our conclusion, we attempt to trace an evolution in the concept of the monster – originally thought of something “against nature”, to finally being defined with Pascal, as the very essence of the human being – and we point to the possible consequences of this evolution.