Villon's Last Will: Language and Authority in the Testament

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Villon studies have traditionally emphasized the documentary and didactic value of the Testament, concentrating on problems of historical referentiality. It is assumed that the work has a significant autobiographical element and that it has much to tell us about life in fifteenth-century Paris. The Testament has thus been avidly exploited by historians of the period and its interest as a document is well-established. Tony Hunt's present study concentrates exclusively on the textual strategies of the Testament, in particular on rhetorical techniques involving dialogue and irony. Villon's Last Will views the Testament as ironic from start to finish, and the main objects of the irony are identified as language and authority. The dissolution of meaning, authority, and even authorial identity are seen to be the principal results of the poet's rhetoric. Tony Hunt's close reading of the text has produced a lively and well-informed commentary, full of fresh insights.