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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Study of the work of Guy le Fevre de la Boderie, 1541-1598 Cromie, Maureen Ann


The aim of this thesis is to present an analysis of the work of a late French Renaissance poet and linguist, Guy Le Fevre de La Boderie. Considered as a Christian Kabbalist, he is placed in the context of the continuing Florentine Neo-Platonist syncretist tradition. The thematic content of his original works is studied, and the relationship of his translations to those works is established. La Boderie's use of symbolic imagery is shown to constitute a further indication of his adherence to the Neo-Platonist tradition. In conclusion, La Boderie is shown to have sought in the multiplicity of traditions cited by syncretizing Renaissance writers a proof of the unity of truth and the foundations for a universal harmony in his age of civil and religious discord. Throughout his work La Boderie appears as a representative, albeit a highly singular one, of a Platonic-Hermetic orientation of thought common to many Renaissance writers. Drawing on the supposed ancient wisdom of the prisca theologia for Catholic apologetic purposes of unification, he found also in the Neo-Platonic and Kabbalist traditions a store of imagery to which he attributed a symbolic value. By means of these symbols he interpreted the "veiled truth" of a divinely ordained universal harmony. Like the Florentine Neo-Platonists, La Boderie revered the legendary Orpheus as a divinely inspired poet-priest-prophet whose musical "effects" were ethically influential. He attributed to himself, as learned and virtuous poet, the role of the "new Orpheus." Through his own work as well as through his exhortations to contemporary poets to adopt a new Christian lyricism, La Boderie endeavoured to bring about a moral and spiritual renewal in his compatriots. Thus La Boderie stands out among the writers in the Platonic-Hermetic tradition both for his constant use of its themes and imagery and also for his conception of a new Christian poetic which he attempted to illustrate by reference to that tradition. In La Boderie's two major works are to be found a unique syncretization of themes and imagery drawn for the most part from the Neo-Platonist and Kabbalist traditions. The Encyclie, a work of post-Tridentine Catholic apologetics, uses the prisca theologia to prove that there is one truth only, however variously it may have been concealed by the "veils" of imagery under which diverse religious leaders have both concealed it from the profane and revealed it to the initiate. The Galllade, a work of mystico-nationalist history, adopts concepts associated with the prisca theologia and Guillaume Postel's interpretations of esoteric traditions to show that France is the home of all post-diluvean knowledge and that the French king is divinely elected to be universal monarch in a new and harmonious age of man's spiritual renewal. La Boderie's shorter pieces, like the prefaces to his translations, reinforce these expressions of his vision of a universal harmony which it is the task of the true poet to apprehend and to interpret. Although his personal achievement as poet is acknowledged to have fallen short of the Orphic aims he propounded, it is proposed that Guy Le Fevre de La Boderie merits consideration. His attempt, as a humanist scholar and poet, to find in esoteric traditions of supposed antiquity a basis for a spiritual renewal commensurate with the glory of the restitution of arts and letters marks him as typical of an important current of Renaissance thought. His unique presentation of multiple facets of esoteric traditions distinguishes him as an individual writer.

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