Reading Boileau: An Integrative Study of the Early Satires

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In French literary history Nicolas Boileau (1636-17'1) has enjoyed legendary status as the great codifier of French classicism, the discerning critic who could demolish or elevate several generations of French poets. This view of Boileau's role has lead to an emphasis on his poetics, not his poems, which in turn has generated general disdain for his poetic art. Robert Corum dispels these misconceptions about Boileau by focusing rigorous critical attention on Boileau's first nine Satires and the accompanying Discours au toy, 11 composed between 1657 and 1668. His reading takes into account a number of factors, including sources, genesis, relation to one another, coherence, and continuity of argument. This examination reveals Boileau to be a gifted poet, not just a talented versifier or a strait-laced mouthpiece for French classical doctrine.