CANCELLED: Hidden Histories of the French Wars of Religion: French Accounts of the New World as a Vector of Religious Polemic

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
4:00 pm PDT – 5:00 pm PDT

Royce Hall, Room 306
10745 Dickson Plaza

Early Modern Cosmopolitanisms Lecture

Andrea Frisch, University of Maryland, College Park

Contemporary readers of Jean de Léry’s Histoire d’un voyage en terre de Brésil, first published in 1578, have tended to downplay or outright ignore the context of the work’s composition and repeated publication in the midst of the French Wars of Religion. Though most scholars acknowledge Léry’s status as a Protestant missionary, and some (most notably Frank Lestringant) have brought Calvinist theology to bear on an analysis of Léry’s account, little has been written about the circumstances in which the book was published and circulated. This is largely due to the fact that virtually all modern editions of the work, both in French and in the 1990 English translation by Janet Whatley, are based on either the first (1578), or more often the second (1580) of the five editions overseen by the author before his death in 1613. This editorial choice obscures the protean nature of Léry’s Brazilian history; even Montaigne’s Essais, famous for its author’s additions and annotations over three editions at around the same time, does not offer as dynamic a composition, publication, and diffusion story as does the Histoire d’un voyage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

This talk will address the Early Modern contexts of the publication and reception of the Histoire d’un voyage, in order to try to understand the nature of the debates in which Léry sought to intervene, and in order to try and grasp the ways in which his account of Brazil was received and diffused in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Andrea Frisch received her PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from UC Berkeley in 1996. Her research focuses on literary and historiographical works in the social, cultural, and political context of the Protestant Reformation, with special attention to Francophone material.

The Invention of the Eyewitness: Witnessing and Testimony in Early Modern France (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) is an examination of the links between the witness of the French law courts, the figure of the witness in theological writings, the eyewitness narrator of Francophone travel literature, and the witness-as-narrator in French literary and philosophical texts in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The book’s analyses highlight the tense coexistence between traditional ethical models of witnessing inherited from medieval precedents, on the one hand, and an epistemic conception of witnessing, according to which eyewitnessing gained special prestige as a depersonalized, quasi-objective form of testimony, on the other.

Forgetting Differences: Tragedy, Historiography and the French Wars of Religion (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) is a study of the rhetoric of reconciliation in the wake of France’s civil wars (1562–1598). Taking contemporaneous juridical and theological conceptions of pardon, amnesty, and reconciliation as a point of departure, the book identifies parallels between historiographical method and tragic aesthetics in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France. The tandem evolution of these discourses was centrally conditioned by the challenge of representing civil war in a way that would be perceived simultaneously as truthful and as non-polemical.

Current projects include Dispassionate Truths: The Rise of Unmemorable History, which tracks the relationship between the “memorable” and the “true” in the larger body of early modern European historiography, and The Library of the Enlightened Ethnographer, which examines the reception of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European travel literature in eighteenth-century anthropology and ethnography.


No registration is required. There is no charge for this event.

Contact Jeanette LaVere at jlavere@humnet.ucla.edu or 310-206-8552.