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Rabelais, François (c.1483–1553)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C034-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 15, 2021, from

Article Summary

Rabelais, a French humanist and comic writer of the Renaissance, is best known for his chronicles of Gargantua and Pantagruel, in which coarse popular humour, fine Lucianic irony and staggering erudition are uniquely blended, and which claim to reveal, first appearances notwithstanding, ‘certain very high sacraments and dread mysteries, concerning not only our religion, but also our public and private life’ ([1532–52] 1955: 38).

Rabelais has been subjected to the most contradictory interpretations and judgments. Like Erasmus, whom he admired, Rabelais was attacked in his own time by schismatic Protestants (most notably Calvin) and by reactionary Catholics (most notably the faculty of theology at Paris), as an obscene Lucianic atheist and a heretic. At the same time he was admired and supported by high-minded patrons including Francis I, the king’s devout sister Marguerite de Navarre, and Cardinal Jean Du Bellay. Even today Rabelais’ religion and philosophy are the subject of debate among scholars, while his work is known to non-specialists more for the ‘Rabelaisian’ ribaldry of a few pages than for the complex irony and profoundly humanistic design that characterize his works as a whole.

Citing this article:
Duval, Edwin M.. Rabelais, François (c.1483–1553), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C034-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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