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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


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Publication details for Dr Kathryn Banks

Banks, Kathryn. (2008). Opposites and Identities: Maurice Scève's Délie and Charles de Bovelles's Ars Oppositorum. French Studies 62(4): 389-403.

Author(s) from Durham


In early sixteenth-century France, uses and conceptions of opposition were varied and shifting. This article analyses some complex and apparently paradoxical notions of opposites and identities found in two very different texts, Charles de Bovelles's Ars oppositorum (1511) and Maurice Scève's Délie (1544), examples of Latin prose philosophy and vernacular love lyric respectively. I argue that Scève's poetry, like Bovelles's theory, reflects profoundly upon opposition, difference and identity. In particular, I focus in the Délie upon relations of opposition and similarity between ‘microcosm’ and ‘macrocosm’, evoked through the poet's use of the ‘jealous sun’ topos. Bovelles explores models of opposition drawn from contrasting generic contexts, including Aristotelian logic and Cusa's mystical theology. However, both the Délie and the Ars diverge in striking ways from strict categorizations of difference and identity (as typified by traditional dialectic). Both think through the relationships between antithetical modes of difference and other kinds, attempting to imagine even the co-existence of difference and identity. Both also present ways in which one relation of difference inflects another, and thus offer particularly complex accounts of dynamic interactions between opposites.