This seminar surveyed the works of François Rabelais and the considerable interpretive difficulties they pose. Rabelais’s multilayered texts both thematize techniques of interpretation and call into question the possibility of any interpretation whatsoever. This seminar will approach these problems from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, combining intensive readings of Rabelais with readings in a broad range of other primary texts–Biblical, classical, patristic, scholastic, and humanist–in an effort to understand Rabelaisian hermeneutics in the context of late medieval and Renaissance interpretive practices. The seminar also examined texts in the light of contemporary theories of interpretation, surveying the often contentious field of recent Rabelais criticism. The goal of the course was to understand how Rabelais proposed to construct a community of ideal readers for his texts, readers that could be trusted both to find the sensus altior and to understand the jokes.
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