TEXT, SUBTEXT, COUNTERTEXT
From Rabelais's time to Victor Hugo's the writers of metatexts agreed on one thing: an author's verbal power lay in his or her text's relation to an ultimate source, an origin. In the Renaissance this origin was most often construed as inspiration and related ultimately to divinity; in the Romantic era inspiration was historicized and related ultimately to humanity.
The rupture of twentieth-century metatexts with this tradition is extreme. Texts that traditionally represented singular discoveries of truth and original constructions of beauty now appear, less loftily, as crossroads: of opinions, of experiences, of other texts. The author is a point of concentration, not of revelation.
What an author writes seems today less expression than communication. It is part of a conversation with companions, known and not known, contemporary and not so; it can rarely be construed as a cry of enlightenment. But if that is so, is not a text simply one case among many of the signifying activities that mark all human endeavor? Writing is talking, and taking is communing, and communing is the exchange of information and feeling and sympathy without which human life withers and dies. Although Rabelais lived in the sixteenth century, not the twentieth, his conception of literary composition, as of verbal behavior generally, is remarkably similar to this contemporary vogue. A communicative conception of bookmaking is the theme of all his prologues, that place among paratexts where authors deal most directly with readers.
In Part One, I emphasized that Rabelais was able to develop an extraordinarily complex politics or strategy vis-à-vis-readers because his writing took place near the beginning of the age of printed books, when the limits of communicative possibility invited by that innovation were not yet conventionalized. He played with readers' awareness of widening places and modes of reading — publicly, privately, together, and alone — and of broadened kinds of reading materials — elite, popu-
lar, and any mixture of the two — by representing readers and himself in multiple guise. Dispersing the narrative function, designating readers ironically with many names, he focused attention upon the writing process and its inevitable duplicities in a situation in which the channel of communication, the printed book, removes senders from the receivers of messages and renders them mutually unknowable.
Paratexts are Janus-faced. They not only pull attention toward the text that follows. They also show — they must show — solicitude for the lives and opinions of the unknown many whose eyes may touch them. From the very first example of Rabelais's novelistic inventions the stance of the imputed author in the prologues capitalized on this necessity, turning attention outward, beyond writing to the readers' lives, as well as to the author's life. Rabelais's books present themselves as means to an end, as precious medicines for mental and physical grief. The medicine offered is conviviality. In this perspective the fracturing of the narrator and the representation of readers in many different masks serves moral rather than literary ends. Humane living is no solitary self-discipline; it requires the exchange of words. It treats verbal exchange as restorative, as mutually inspiring and vivifying, like a shared draught of wine.
Merry books are good for the spirits of authors no less than of readers because they signify an ambience of convivial exchange. Rabelais's notion of how to write "Pantagrueline" fiction thus posits a certain context for its execution. That context seemed to him to disappear in the 1540s. The slanders of certain "cannibals" were so sharp, he wrote some years later, that he had decided not to write another jot. Rabelais's jovial sense of communication with like-minded persons shriveled. He began to change the concept of his readers and his relation to them. An altered sense of audience appears in the prologue to the Third Book (1546) and in the prologue to the incomplete Fourth Book, hastily published in 1548.
Then in 1552 the author seemed to beam again. The complete Fourth Book published that year, which includes the Carnival-Lent episode, is introduced by renewed declarations of case and happiness: "Freed from all intimidation, I let my quill-feather take to the wind." "Shake your ears and you shall hear marvels of the good and noble Pantagruel." If
Rabelais regained a certain equanimity about the time that he published the full Fourth Book, it was because he had finally succeeded, it seems, in formalizing a new way of dealing with his readers, a way that I have in my turn formalized in the title to Part Four.
This concluding section returns to the problems broached in Part One, those of the author's relation to his text/context. As in Part Three, the chapters of Part Four are roughly chronological, proceeding from the early system of author-reader relations to its crisis in the 1540s in a first chapter and then exploring the new method of 1552 through examination of several sections in the Fourth Book . The new system did not imply utter rejection of conviviality as a prescription for good writing and good living. Gymnaste can still declare that the Pantagruelians are enfeoffed to Mardi Gras, that prime paradigm of conviviality. But this very Carnival-Lent episode in the Fourth Book of 1552 marks, like the other examples to be examined, the limits to the ideal.
What does such a recognition imply about Bakhtin's theory of Rabelais's carnivalesque text? It urges us to reread Bakhtin's text, like Rabelais's, from another angle.
In the sixteenth century most people's lives were socially articulated; their membership and participation in the communities into which they were born determined most of what they did. At the same time these communities themselves were loosening, enlarging, and subdividing as a result of commercial enterprise, political centralization, military expansion, religious debate, and a dozen other European developments following upon the socially and biologically more difficult fourteenth and fifteenth century. If "Renaissance individualism" has seemed an important theme since its historicization by Burckhardt and Michelet, this is due perhaps more to its burgeoning importance in these authors' nineteenth-century environment than it is to the typicalness of Leonardo da Vinci, Ambroise Paré, or Martin Luther. It is less, in any case, the actual behavior of people than their thoughts, feelings, and aspirations that become themes in Rabelais's fiction.
To quantify the relative power of communalism or individualism to guide people's ideas and desires in Rabelais's time is impossible. We know that individualism in this sense is dominant in the twentieth century, that communalism was similarly dominant in the tenth century, and that the sixteenth century offered persons reasons to believe in either. But if there were many reasons to believe in individualism, there were fewer means to live so. People's homes — rural, urban, or royal — grouped family, servants, relatives, and often friends for long periods; in the towns the home also housed the master artisan's workmen. Small nuclear families of three or four persons living in separate homes were rarely the norm and scarcely the reality. Unmarried persons did not live alone unless they were old and widowed. Courts, ecclesiastical or secular, and convents for monks or nuns were, like the workshops in the towns, places where groups of people lived together, sharing the whole range of daily life rather than retreating to the privacy and isolation of "residential communities" at the end of the workday.
The relation among different kinds of communities was loose or tight, depending on changeable circumstances. Everyone belonged to many interacting groups — religious, occupational, political, familial. Each membership involved some shared patterns of living together, not merely attendance at an occasional meeting. Religious lay brother-hoods passed days and weeks together in group prayer, festive meals, charitable practices. Town citizenship carried similar obligations of service, with none of the mechanizing facilities that render modern political and administrative life impersonal and routine. Above all, the scale of communities was small. Fewer than a dozen cities in all Europe, including Balkan Turkey, possessed more than one hundred thousand people. The primary tie in a technologically primitive age was neighborhood; the primary social sense in a politically decentralized age was mutual dependency.
This is the kind of society represented in Rabelais's books, an unsettled society full of monarchic, entrepreneurial, rural, religious thrusts toward greater power and centralized control, thrusts that are ever and again swallowed up in a sea of localized communities. This society is neither the rigidly articulated one of local feudal-manorial dominance, which made the social typologies of allegory feasible and insightful, nor the anticommunal one of later days that requires literary entry into the details of individualized choice. But it is one in which enough rips and tears have opened in the network of local communities, and enough grand opportunities for individual talent have emerged due to the expansion of European society generally, so that an illusion of fully individualized choice could arise and the ideal could be fabricated of a life lived purely for the sake of the self's fulfillment.
Enter the picaresque hero, enter the humanist. The rogue fives in society's interstices, pursuing his own profit like the military mercenary Jack Wilton, for example, Thomas Nashe's first-person hero in The Unfortunate Traveler:
About that time that the terror of the world and fever quartan of the French, Henry the Eighth (the only true subject of chronicles) advanced his standard against the two hundred and fifty towers of Turney and Turwin [the campaign against Tournai and Terouanne, 1513] and had the Emperor and all the nobility of Flanders, Holland, and Brabant as mercenary attendants on his full-sailed fortune, I, Jack Wilton, a gentleman at least, was . . . [there intervenes more cheerful bombast, which finally winds down to] winnowing my wits to live merrily, and by my troth so I did. The Prince could but command men to spend their blood in his
service; I could make them spend all the money they had for my pleasure.
The humanist was no more capable than the roguish vagabond of establishing a stable foundation for his grand dreams in a century when copyrights, royalties, and professional posts in the humanities scarcely existed. The international community of scholars clogged sixteenth-century printing presses with their self-seeking letters, always written with an eye to publication, protesting admiration for the addressee and his friends and disdain and disgust for nearly everyone else. Perhaps even Rabelais's letter to Guillaume Budé in 1521, the first of his extant works, only deviates from the genre because he is so anxious about his own obscurity that he scarcely dares backbite.
Panurge represents the Rabelaisian concept of deviant freedom; Epistemon is an incarnation of the humanist ideal. These men are not individualists, and perhaps they do not even dream of being so. They are Pantagruelians, members of a young men's confraternity of joyous travelers who share allegiance to and the bounty of a grand feudal prince. Pantagruel, who is drawn as the most self-sufficient, both physically and mentally, is the most communally minded of the group, never failing in his feudal, filial, or religious obligations. He is also a humanist and a rogue, boon companion of Panurge and given to expressing himself exaggeratedly, gigantically, in the learned and pedantic rhetoric by which humanists distinguished themselves. Pantagruel shares the life of his fellows even while presiding over it. He is communal in ethos.
There is only one practicing individualist in Rabelais's books: Quaresmeprenant, who hunts at the bottom of the sea, bathes above the steeples, and hangs around the streets, alone. Quaresmeprenant's monstrosity is in the largest sense his lack of capacity for community. Throttled perpetually by his simultaneously Carnivalesque and Lenten conscience, he seems to be forced to live alone, incapable of sharing any desire with others for very long. But Quaresmeprenant is only half-human. It is too much to say that Rabelais attributes an ethic of individuality to him. All we learn about him in this respect are his individualistic habits; relevant to our theme here is the author's apparent
association of individualistic behavior with monstrosity. Quaresmeprenant's idiosyncrasy is larger than life, worse than anything actual, perhaps because actuality, still so communal, made a self-isolating mania — something which for twentieth-century persons is almost the norm — seem possible to represent only in fantasy. Quaresmeprenant is a mental projection, an imagination of mind-torn self-absorption that balloons in the psyche to create a somatic freak, a child of Anti-Nature like those critics who led the author to brood with mythifying intensity on the excesses of censure.
In Rabelais the representation of action is usually undertaken collectively and shared communally. Heroes may recount adventures undertaken individually elsewhere — Panurge most conspicuously — but they do so for the benefit of sharing the account with Pantagruelians and with Pantagruelist readers. The politics of communication Within the narrative — who narrates to whom, for what purpose? — are constructed so as to urge a certain kind of communication beyond the narrative, between the text and its readers. Tracing the devices by which one kind of communication urges the other reveals the communal ethos.
The novel between the seventeenth and the early twentieth century depended upon representing highly individualized narrators. The novel's construction was based either on presenting everything from the point of view of a character involved in the action, the first-person narrator, or on presenting everything from the point of view of an omniscient observer capable of entering into each character in turn, such that overall unity emerged from the assembly of individual views. After and before the period of the classic novel, however, the narrator's voice is split. There are discontinuities between one or several narrators' comments, and the actions to which they refer are not resolved by an omniscient voice. But the reasons for splitting narrators and disrupting the unity of signification are not the same in the twentieth century as they were in the sixteenth. Discordant narrator-voices in Joyce's Ulysses
correspond to split subjectivity, to the discovery of gaps and disjunctions within as well as between private, individualized psyches. The split narrator in Rabelais's books is another matter. Here narrative voices interact with each other. They repeat, overlap, and participate in each other's mentality.
Rabelais's narrator Alcofribas enters into the action; he is part of the Pantegruelian troop on shipboard. The personage standing on the margin of this narrative report, the "author Master François Rabelais" who writes the prologue to the Fourth Book, is revealed by the character of his discourse to be an alter ego to Alcofribas, especially for those readers who have read the prologues to Gargantua and Pantagruel "by the author" who is not François Rabelais but "Master Alcofribas" as stated on the title pages to these earlier volumes. In the case of the Fourth Book, still another figure writes for all to read: "Dr. François Rabelais," the signer of a letter of dedication to the "Most Illustrious Prince and Most Reverend Lord Odet, Cardinal of Châtillon." This narrator dons the mask of a leisured doctor who knows many "great persons" like Odet and writes both for his own amusement and, like Alcofribas, in order to give some "relief " to the "sick and unhappy." Because the title page states that the Fourth Book is written by "Master François Rabelais, doctor in medicine," readers over the cardinal's shoulders would have concluded that Rabelais was a metaphorical and also a real doctor who claimed skill in the arts of both words and medicine.
Perhaps the narrator's presentation of himself as a well-off doctor-writer is less a mask than a costume suitable for a man of middling estate to present himself to a courtier. Most readers would probably have slid easily from title page to dedication letter to prologue, scarcely troubling themselves to differentiate among narrative personae to reflect upon Rabelais's device of using an anagram of his name, Alcofribas, to tell his tales. That is no accident. Merging of the narrators is as encoded as their separation because the context of these narrations in dedication, prologue, and text is the communal framework shared by real author and real readers. That framework establishes identity not through a sense of inimitable selfhood but through calculation of the relations among life's many memberships.
Rabelais's many selves, including the selves peopling his imagination, were interconnected with each other and with those of other members of contemporary society: stated thus, I simply affirm the obvious. It is the way a communal consciousness interplays with political tactics and formal subtlety that is interesting. The interplay is most developed in his last publication before death, the Fourth Book of 1552. It develops so far, in fact, that it ironically undermines the communalism.
It took time for Rabelais to arrive at the chastened, curtailed, and sometimes negative visions of community in the Fourth Book . The development is easiest to trace in the paratexts and clearest in reference to two issues that, in Rabelais's usual way, are fictionally represented rather than openly discussed: the issues of author-narrator interplay and of readerly reactions to his tales.
Until 1546, when the Third Book was published, Rabelais avoided coupling his own name with title page, prologue, and text. Perhaps because he received a royal privilege in September 1545, he published his name on the title page in 1546. But he changed the title of the prologue: instead of "Prologue of the Author," as in Gargantua and Pantagruel, it reads: "Prologue of the Third Book." The fiction that prologues have been written by Alcofribas is not belied. The same is true of the incomplete Fourth Book published in 1548: "Rabelais, doctor in medicine" is on the cover, but the prologue is entitled simply "Prologue of the Fourth Book [of] Pantagruel."
From 1532 to 1552, when the final form of the Fourth Book appears, Rabelais labels his works ever more subtly. Why, for example, did he undermine a straightforward claim to authorship on the title page of the Third Book (1546) and incomplete Fourth Book (1548) by not only qualifying himself as "Doctor in medicine" but also as "Calloier of the Hieres Islands"? "Callo-ier" is an adaptation of Greek kalos hieros, handsome (or appropriately looking) priest; kalos hieros was a common Greek Orthodox Christian term for monk. The Hyères Islands, situated off the Mediterranean Coast near Toulon, France, were desolate, rocky places that would have served well for the cenobitic life of many Orthodox monks; a Cistercian monastery was founded there in the twelfth
century. By Rabelais's time this group of three islands had also become a refuge for pirates.
Rabelais, whose books celebrate conviviality, seems to identify himself in 1546 and 1548 as a doctor and self-isolating ecclesiastic on a rocky, unsavory isle. Was it simply that he could not resist the approximate phonic reduplication of the word calloier's loi-er in (is)les (H)ier (es)? Obviously not. I have commented on the fury with which Rabelais attacked his censors in the prologue to the incomplete Fourth Book . At the end of the prologue of the Third Book he already raged in the same manner:
As for those padded big-wig brains, haggling critics, don't bring them up, I beg of you, by the name and by the reverence you bear to the four buttocks that begot you and the life-giving peg that coupled them . . . .
Back off, you mastiffs! Out of my way, out of my sun! Cowls, to the devil with you! So you'd come here to buttock around and article my wine before you piss on my barrel? . . . Get packing, cagotz! Off to your sheep, mastiffs! Out of here, caphars, get the devil away! You're still there? I'll give up my share in Papimania if only I can nab you! Grr, grrr, grrrrrr. Away, away!
The misanthropic anger of this prologue writer is anything but communalist in spirit. The cantankerous, individualistic persona of an island-dwelling monk, full of rocky, rough crotchets like the islands of his supposed origin, is appropriate.
In Gargantua and Pantagruel author and narrator seem to be the same persons, but this is only an appearance: Alcofribas Nasier is an anagram, a mask for the author who is never mentioned. In the Third Book and incomplete Fourth Book the author Rabelais is explicitly separated from the narrator Alcofribas but implicitly unified with him because the reader is now given the means to decipher the relation between Master François on the new title pages and Master Alcofribas on the title pages of the first two books. But no sooner has the true author's name appeared than it is falsified by a mystifying attribution: Rabelais, the monk from pirate islands near Toulon.
With the subterfuges of the Third Book and incomplete Fourth Book, the dispersion of the narrator has been developed so far that Rabelais the author and Rabelais the doctor, instead of standing dimly at the edge and beyond the books, are folded into its structure as two more of its overlapping images. The dispersion of the narrator semioticizes the participation of the writer in his writing, of the doctor in the writer, and of the monk in both of them. I mean by "semioticize" what was established in chapter 7: Rabelais's words develop their power by combining with each other sometimes in a primarily "symbolic" manner, as mutually conditioning linguistic patterns, sometimes in a primarily ideational manner, as words directing attention to thought patterns, and sometimes in a primarily referential manner, as words referring to persons and states of action in and beyond this fictional universe.
Then in 1552 the complete Fourth Book is published, and the Third Book is reissued with corrections. Rabelais's monkish identity is deleted from the title pages; on both of them he is introduced as simply a "doctor in medicine. Moreover, the prologues are now identified in both the Third Book and the Fourth Book as by the "author"; given the adjacent title pages, they can only be by Rabelais, not Alcofribas. The narrator represented in the text is therefore eliminated from the para-text. But even as narrator and author are more explicitly separated, even as the author's profession is simply stated without fictive adjuncts, the author's personality, as exhibited in the fictional masks and costumes of the paratext's parts, takes on a new complexity: the prologue narrator in the new prologue to the Fourth Book of 1552 seems at first to be a very
proper gentleman, however playful (the Lenten game of "I spy"), but he soon drops this role for the more familiar one of priapic storytelling, only to switch from that to the role of preacher. The dedicatory author is by turns very proud and very humble, very anxious about and very loud in praise of his books. The character of the source of these fictions becomes more convoluted with each publication; Rabelais's para-texts become more elaborate and add new parts.
Paratexts are stitched all around and into texts; they expose the indefiniteness of a text's edges, the literal impossibility of cutting an author's words neatly from their context and exhibiting them as an icon. As I suggested in Part One, paratexts seem to be chiefly interesting at times of swift, disruptive change in the conventions of written communication. At other times they tend, far more than texts, to become standard in form and content. Perhaps because twentieth-century readers are now entering a period of major dislocation in the communication of lettered words, the possibilities inherent in the paratext-text relationship appear more clearly to present-day critics; in the case of Rabelais, as in the case of Montaigne and Cervantes, they appear to have been exploited with virtuosity.
Paratexts are inescapable in printed books for at least four reasons: the print has an edge, it has a beginning, it has parts and subdivisions, large and small, and it has an end. To this physical character of printed books correspond psychological and economic necessities. The printed book maximizes an impersonal tie between the senders and the receivers of its messages; I say "maximizes" because manuscript books of the later Middle Ages already developed this impersonality. As impersonality develops, so does a commercial relation: senders and receivers are less related as client and patron or master and student and more as seller and buyer. The writer must find readers; they are no longer known in advance.
The paratext-as-edge is the first approach to unknown readers; book cover, title page, table of contents, and the colophon at the other end of the book in the early days of printing make this approach. The pub-
lisher's influence over an author is great at these points, but both publisher and author realize that it is in their mutual interest to confer and compromise on such elements: neither of them knows certainly how readers will react to their choices, and each knows that the other possesses expertise of which they have need.
The paratext-as-beginning follows upon the book's greeting to its readers: readers are ushered into the text by dedication, preface, epigraphs, frontispiece, introduction. Paratext-as-edge maximizes the seller-buyer tie and is as attractive — even deceptively attractive — as possible. It does not hesitate to exhibit titles and show chapters that may contain far less than they promise. Paratext-as-beginning has other functions that are in part defensive. It is a question not only of acquiring readers but also of insuring understanding of the text that follows. These parts of paratext try to guard against misreading just as much as they try to stimulate sympathy for the writing project. Authors deal here more directly with their public than at any other point: the sender-receiver tie is primary.
The paratext as a set of signals of subdivision in the text does not arise primarily, like the earlier two parts, from concern with the book's readership but from concern with the book's readability. A book is long, ordinarily too long to read at a sitting, and so it has parts that allow for pauses in its enjoyment and understanding. Chapter titles, intertitles, notes, chapter epigraphs, illustrations, graphs, diagrams, and tables point and summarize the arguments and the flow of narration. They give rhythm to the verbal energy, articulating its rise and fall. They bring out hidden connections in a verbal medium that, although necessarily linear in its acquisition by readers, is nonlinear in its understanding. The longer a text is, adding words to words from page to page, the more its contrastive levels appear, evolving in varied directions, and the more its reflexively stitched form comes to readerly consciousness. Paratextual signals of subdivision orient readers toward these realizations.
Paratextual forms are finally used to make an end of the book, to mark its conclusion, summarize it, and in some cases reevaluate it. The end of a book stimulates the critical function in authors as it does in readers; this is all there is: What was said? What should have been said? What was not said but nevertheless implied? The paratext-as-end tries to guard against the menaces of metatexts and, often enough, to offer its own in postfaces, endnotes, and appendixes. It tries to facilitate reuse of the book with indexes of greater or lesser complexity.
The critics who in the last few years have renewed and broadened our sense of paratexts have stressed the difference between text and paratext as one between stasis and movement, although not always in the same way. On one hand the text is regarded as a solid, unchanging monument, while paratexts are seen as parade wagons that convey the monument from authors to their public; they activate the text and render it performative. On the other hand the text-paratext relation is formulated as the difference between textual attention to polysemic openness and paratextual concern for fixity of sense, such that interpretation of the text is oriented by paratext toward the historical, psychological, and social particulars of the texts production.
These dualist contrasts are illuminating, but they may obscure the ways in which text and paratext function together; they may diminish awareness of books as jointly created by authors, publishers, editors, and readers' responses. Paratext renders the text more supple but also more definite in its contextual assumptions. The text reveals both the meaning and the limits of the overly measured and overly grandiose claims held out by paratext. Text and paratext belie each other. Their disjunction is not only inevitable but also enjoyable. Doesn't everybody already know this game anyway? — I see you! Now you must join me in a toast to the monk.
Rabelais's repeated revisions and reeditions of his works, together with his frequent changes of publishers (he was sued by one of them in early 1546) offer rich materials for a study of the novels' paratext-as-edge. Complete study of it or other aspects of paratext is not my purpose here. The different dimensions of the text-paratext relation have been indicated primarily in order to focus more clearly on parts of Rabelais's paratext-as-beginning. I want now to clarify the implications of the addition of a dedicatory letter to the Fourth Book beyond its obvious political function. Adding this letter caused the author not only to re-
vise the function and narrative personae depicted in the prologue to that book but also to tinker with the prologue and title page to the Third Book, which was reissued at the same time (1552).
Some of the most difficult problems in Rabelaisian interpretation are thereby broached. Analysis of the relation between dedicatory letter and prologue clarifies a general shift in narrative voice, noticeable in the Third Book and obvious in the Fourth Book . This shift specifies Rabelais's communalist assumptions in writing and why he felt they were in jeopardy in the 1540s, which in turn will allow us to guess why Rabelais impersonated himself as an angry ecclesiastic from the Hyèes Islands and why he at the same time gave a new nuance to Pantagruelist philosophy.
The shift in narrative voice must have slowly matured during the long silence of this writer between the publication of Gargantua and Pantagruel in 1532–1535 and that of the Third Book and Fourth Book in 1546–1552. Linguistic virtuosity deserts the previously dominant narrator (Alcofribas) to place itself after the silent period in a more diversified way among the Pantagruelian actors and those they encounter. In the Third Book the eloquent anxiety of Panurge and sententious wisdom of Pantagruel orient while doing little to integrate this scattering. In the Fourth Book rhetorical dominance is a three-way and four-way tussle among Pantagruel, Xenomanes, Alcofribas, and the occupants of the islands. Especially in the Fourth Book the fusion of the narrative functions with that of acting in the narrative-Alcofribas is present on shipboard; Xenomanes offers advice about the ship's route-reinforces the representation of writing as a translation of collective, oral contexts. Meaning emerges from an ongoing, open-ended, social process.
From this point in chapters 8 and 9 readers will be asked to cope with some movement back and forth among four topics that are interwoven in order to show how, alongside the continuing representation of collectively created verbal meanings, a narrative counterflow emerges in Rabelais's later texts that changes the character of the author's communalism. The four topics are: the authorial strategies shared by all four books published by Rabelais; Rabelais's defenses against misinterpretation in his first two books; Rabelais's development of new defenses in 1546 and afterward; and finally, the formalization of these new defenses into altered author-reader relations in the Fourth Book of 1552.
First, then, a further word about authorial strategies in all four books. The ragged, intercepting, overlapping form of author-narrator-reader representations was a useful strategy at a time when storms of religious war were ominously gathering, for who could say which narrative voice designates the opinion of Rabelais the person? But the assumption that people's normal mode of existence is that of participants in a number of cross-cutting communities also played a role in Rabelais's authorial strategy. The shifts among narrators confirm the idea that authorial meaning should be seen as scattered over the whole field of actors and actions in a book rather than be understood as concentrated in a hero. This is not to say that there are no hillocks and hollows in the field but only to emphasize that such varied landscape takes its shape from the whole. To suppose that Alcofribas or Pantagruel or any one else speaks consistently for the author, so that his voice runs like a mole's burrow of half-hidden meaning through the whole field, is to mistake parts and whole and to ignore Rabelais's communalist assumptions about communication. One should look not for what Rabelais intends to say but for the variation in the groups and members of groups to which he lends his voice.
The place of the narrator is not yet, like the place of the king in Velasquez's painting Las Meninas, a space beyond the reach of the communities filling Rabelais's tale. It is not yet a space beyond the chess-boardlike partitioning of social orders each from each, the generalized, overspreading, almost invisibly located space of the sovereign who designates the places of his subjects. In the sovereign-centered "classical episteme" both senders and receivers of messages stand outside the action and the actors in it; each element inside the narrative frame has its appointed, separate space, as the author-king urges his partners in
power, the readers, to see. The postclassical novel of the twentieth century undoes this narrative clarity in the name of a centerless text representing unorderable reality. Senders and receivers of such dissipating messages are even more separate in the postclassical novel than in the model it assaults. The Rabelaisian text-paratext, on the other hand, represents narration as a meeting ground rather than as a means of assessing the separation of author, actors, and audience.
In Rabelais's prologues this sense of meeting and mixture of narrative fields and personae is not merely represented; it is thrust upon the reader. The scenes that are sketched and the actors in them are manipulated in such a way as to demand that readers understand the novels only in such mixed and flexible ways. If readers therefore begin Rabelais's prologues expecting to be ushered into the text in the manner of an introduction or preface, they are soon baffled. The prologues present conflicting images of the author then or subsequently. Their conflict suggests that they must be read for what they imply as well as for what they say.
The locus classicus of this suggested double reading is the prologue to Gargantua . Referring to Alcibiades's praise of Socrates as a Silenus box in Plato's Symposium, Master Alcofribas declares that his books are like these ancient Greek playthings, comically ugly on the outside but packed inside with pharmaceutical rarities and other precious things. Hence while you the readers will find "in a literal sense" some joyous matters here, you must not remain at this level but "interpret in a higher sense what you perhaps thought was said in gaiety of heart." These words urge readers to seek high meaning beneath a low and negligible surface. But the following paragraphs seem to turn against this impulse:
Do you faithfully believe that Homer, when he was writing the Iliad and Odyssey, thought about the allegories which Plutarch, Heraclides Ponticus, Eustathius, and Phornutus plugged into him [lesquelles de luy ont calfreté; literally, which have stopped up the chinks in, or caulked, him] . . . ? If you think so, you do not come within hand or foot of my opinion, which is that those things were as little dreamed of by Homer as the Gospel sacraments were by Ovid in his Metamorphoses .
The seeming contradiction of these words to Alcofribas's allusion to Silenus boxes with their precious inner meanings has been dispelled by Edwin Duval. The prologue to Gargantua does not concern the choice of allegorical over literal readings or the inverse. It is about both readerly and authorial perceptions of the text: one may find in my books, as others have found in Homer, says Alcofribas, meanings that I never dreamed of as I wrote. But that does not imply that the meanings are not there. I wrote while eating and drinking and "that is the proper time to write about these high matters and profound sciences, as Homer, paragon of all philologists, knew well how to do . . . according to Horace."
Neither the relative value of allegorical and literal reading nor of learned versus naive interpretation but the inevitability of false consciousness is Alcofribas's theme. Homer never imagined the things Plutarch saw in the Iliad and the Odyssey because Homer's context was different from Plutarch's. Both Plutarch's and Homer's other commentators saw some meanings that were true and others that were false to Homer's words. How can one know which are which? How should one read? In the same manner as one should write, while eating and drinking. Drinking is emphasized in all the prologues as the manner in which and indeed by means of which author and readers may best meet. "Most illustrious boozers," the prologue to Gargantua begins, and they are also the first words in the prologue to the Third Book; the Fourth Book' s prologue begins by praising last year's vintage and assuring readers that they have in wine a sure remedy for every difficulty.In Vinoveritas: drinking inspires not simply good companionship but true understanding. Drinking inspires that loosened framework of semiotic suggestiveness and empathetic receptivity which discovers matters not consciously known. It leads readers, as it has led writers, to intuit matters unconsciously written about by authors.
These ideas are implicit in the very choice of Alcofribas's exemplum.
Alcibiades's comparison of Socrates to a Silenus box occurs in Plato's Symposium, which is the representation of a banquet. Alcibiades makes his comment in this convivial setting, being very drunk. Alcrofribas makes his reference to Plato the philosopher's representation of drunken truth in a comic prologue that offers serious arguments in a comic, convivial manner parallel to Plato. Most humanist readers would have been aware of this replication at a subtextual level of Alcofribas's seemingly outrageous assertions. To humanist readers these assertions would scarcely have been surprising for other reasons, too.
In distinguishing between literal and allegorical readings, humanists insisted that a text should first be read for its literal sense, which meant establishing the historical setting of the words, the text's linguistic and social context. In this sense Alcofribas refers to Homer as the paragon of philologists. The word philologist in Rabelais's day meant not a scholar equipped with the complex and precise methodologies elaborated by linguists in the nineteenth century but more simply and generally a lover of words. Homer probably seemed to Rabelais a philologist because he indulged in words as much as he was said to indulge
in wine; it was certainly not because he studied words technically. Taking words literally and letting them flow, Homer gave them, drinking, other meanings high and low without necessarily knowing what he did.
Rabelais's alter ego Alcofribas asserts, then, that readers need inspiration in order to read well, and that the best, most word-loving writers possess that virtue. Inspiration guides writers' and readers' thoughts beyond their conscious knowing. But although such inspiration accompanies eating and drinking according to Alcofribas, it is not derived from them but instead comes from on high, infers Edwin Duval. The deeper meaning of Homer's vinous verbal richness is that the poet is a vessel of divine wisdom. Duval admits that belief in a divine source of poetic power is only implicit in Alcofribas's argument; the inference seems warranted, he believes, because it is nearly as commonplace an idea among humanists as their emphasis on the priority of literal meaning. The inference is not warranted. The inspiration that comes from food and drink transforms writers not into "inspired . . . vates " but into boon companions.
Rabelais was a doctor; his idea of a writer's inspiration was physiological no less than philosophical. He speaks of it with the voice of Dr. Rabelais in a most telling place, at the end of the dedicatory letter to Odet de Châtillon prefacing the Fourth Book: "For you with your most honorable exhortation have given me both courage and inventiveness, and without you my heart would have failed me and the fountain of my animal spirits would have remained dry." Heart and courage (French coeur, courage ), animal spirits and inventiveness: the psychophysiology is Galen's and is explained in two passages in the Third Book, once by Panurge and once by Pantagruel. Food and drink, transformed into blood in the stomach and liver, flow to the heart. The heart is the "fountain" of animal spirits because its left ventricle so "subtilizes"
the blood "that it is called spiritual"; then the heart sends it through the arteries. Animal spirits "spring up" in this arterial blood "refined to a pure state in that admirable network [retz admirable] which lies beneath the ventricles of the brain" so that we "imagine, speak, judge, resolve, deliberate, reason, and remember." Pantagruel adds in his description of the process, as one would expect him to do, that fasting is not a good thing for the animal spirits, for hunger will "pull down the roaming spirit, making it neglect its nourisher and natural host, the body." The process is circular, from matter to mind and back again; it is naturalistic, involving no supernatural intervention. The stimulus to which Rabelais refers as so essential in renewing his animal spirits, the exhortations of Cardinal Odet, has a social character like Alcofribas's plea at the conclusion to the prologue of Gargantua:
To be called and reputed a good fellow and good companion is for me nothing but honor and glory, and with such a name I am welcome in all good companies of Pantagruelists . . . . Interpret therefore all my words and deeds in the most perfect way; hold in reverence the cheese-like brain which feeds you with these pretty, puffy-bowel trifle and, as far as you can, keep me always merry.
Writing feeds fellowship; words are inseparable from deeds; sociability is the soul of honor. The "most perfect, interpretive effort no less than the body's most material profit flows from and back into convivial merriment:
Now be cheerful, my dears, and gaily read the rest for your body's ease and intestine's profit. But listen, you donkey-dongs (may an ulcer lame you!), remember to pledge me likewise and I'll drink to you in just a minute.
Is this the appeal to the benevolent nature of Christian humanist readers of which Duval speaks? "The prologue to Gargantua is quite simply
a captatio benevolentiae in the strictest sense of the term. It represents an effort on the part of the author to disarm the reader by overcoming his initial skepticism, to make him want to read on by winning his confidence in the value of the book . . . . Christian benevolence of the kind defined at the end of the prologue [sic ] is in fact a crucial element of the 'doctrine plus absconce' [the 'more recondite teaching' Alcofribas suggests lies 'inside' the lighthearted exterior of his words] . . . promised in the prologue . . . . The 'doctrine absconce.' in other words, is nothing more nor less than the moral virtue required to seek it."
Every critic selects some words of the text at the expense of others in order to give point and power to his or her ideas. The key words for Duval at the "end" of the prologue are "Interpret . . . my words and deeds in the most perfect way" (Interpretez . . . mes faictz et mes dictz en la perfectissime partie ). These words, he suggests, refer to the "special kind of benevolence" in interpreting others' behavior which is urged upon Christians by Rabelais's contemporaries Desiderius Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples. I have quoted the rest of the sentence after the semicolon that follows "most perfect way," a remainder that refers once more to eating. The eating is not just anything: it refers to tripe — let me be outrageous and say sausage-tripe, the tripe proper to Carnival.
Conviviality is animality is spirituality for Rabelais. The three are blended, not elevated by their equally divine sanction. "God never gave us Lent but certainly the good things we will enjoy together," he wrote to his friend. Duval: "The truly unique importance of the prologue to Gargantua, then, is the way in which it transposes the entire issue of 'interpretation' from a literary to a strictly moral plane, from a question of exegesis to a question of caritas ." Rabelais: "But listen you donkey-dongs . . . I'll drink to you in just a minute." The last words of this prologue are not Christian and moral but Dionysian and phallic.
Criticism concerned with the manner in which readers are related to the text by authorial strategy has been in vogue for several decades.
Rouben Cholakian's book on the narrative voice in Rabelais, Dorothy Coleman's chapter on Rabelais as an "Olympian author," and Rigolot's chapter on "narratology" in Rabelais deal with many of the same materials and problems discussed here. But these critics understand Rabelais's procedures within the individualizing terms of a generically designated "implied reader" or "narratee." As suggested in a variety of ways here, neither narratee nor narrator is generically designated by Rabelais. The readers envisaged by the text shift their identity in such a manner as to stimulate recognition that they belong to varying groups whose differences — at least in the first two Pantagruelian books — count for less than their common sociability.
In the last as in the first books, Rabelais's implied readers crowd around the text like the grotesque group pictured on the 1547 title page of Gargantua, readers whom one might suppose, on the basis of addresses made at various points in the text, to be merchants, artisans, servants, nobles, officers of the king, bespectacled scholars, and mere passersby (Fig. 1). Nothing in the text or in the text's sixteenth-century context forces us to think that Rabelais's readers remained the same from one chapter to the next or that Rabelais thought they did. The oral overtones of parts of the discourse, the extraordinary shifts of mood between "high" humanism and "low" scatology, and the episodic patterning of plot, would rather seem to imply an in-and-out participation like that of people on the edges of a crowd watching an entertainer.
Rigolot, Cholakian, and Coleman analyze Rabelais's procedures in terms appropriate for the individualized and privatized world of the classic novel developed in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century. Many authors even before the seventeenth century, of course, wrote in terms that individualized and at the same time gave generic qualities to implied readers. But Rabelais was not one of them. He moved rather in the direction of merging readers into a group that included the author and described readers' collective interest and common enjoyment. The invention of Alcofribas is Rabelais's chief narratological device here, Alcofribas the narrator who is also one of the Pantagruelian actors, a faithful servant of Pantagruel, and yet anagrammatically none other than Rabelais the real author.
The attitudes attributed to Rabelais's author-narrators, Dr. Rabelais as well as Alcofribas, are participatory and political rather than Olympian and manipulative. Thus the examples of the "trick[s] of the Olympian author," which Coleman gathers from the Fourth Book, for example, "elevating us to the right hand of the god who is controlling the scene," seem quite to the contrary to emphasize the inseparability of narrator from the narrated and to encourage the participation of narratees in the fictive fun.
Coleman cites the second chapter's description of the mythical "tar-and" that Pantagruel purchases on the island of Medamothi as an example of this Olympian movement: "The nous [we] device is a witness to all the things happening on board ship; it is able to observe details which any of the company can see and also to comment on them from a superior perspective." Here is the passage in question:
[Pantagruel] also commissioned the purchase of . . . a tarand which a Scythian sold to him . . . . A tarand is an animal the size of a young bull . . . . It changes color according to the variety of the places where it grazes and lives . . . . Indeed I have seen it change color . . . . What we found especially marvellous about that tarand was that not only its face and skin but even its hair took the color of its surroundings.
The text moves from description of the exotic animal to the intrusion of Alcofribas the narrator into the text to give ironic realism by means
of his eyewitness testimony. Then the theme shifts from "I" to "we," from Alcofribas to the group of which he is a member. Far from elevating readers above the scene, this move plunges them into it by multiplying the ironic realism: not to believe what is said about the tarand would mean rejecting the veracity of not only the narrator but also those who, by the device of Alcofribas's membership in the group of narrative actors, have become coguarantors of the narrative's reality. The passage proceeds to exploit this condition by next describing the changing colors of the tarand as he was led from Panurge to Pantagruel to the ship's captain.
The point emphasized here is not how this comic verification of incident affects the truth value of the narrative but how it makes truth depend on group witnessing and participation. The groups that witness and participate are presented by Rabelais in such an interlocking manner that the passage from purely fictive to nearly real persons is almost imperceptible. Alcofribas's move from "I" to "we" in this passage is narrated in the same conversationally sociable style as his address to readers about the noble ancestry of Sausages in the Carnival-Lent episode. Dr. Rabelais's authorial address to well-wishing in the Prologue and even the doctor's dedication letter to Odet de Châtillon are couched in orally derived, publicly oriented terms. What allows this series of moves among actors, narrators, implied authors, and implied readers to slide along so easily?
Ever since the title page of Gargantua (1534–1535) announced a "book full of Pantagruelism," readers of the novels must have asked themselves about the meaning of this name-turned-abstraction. Surely it has something to do with the qualification of Alcofribas on the same title page as an "abstractor of quintessence"; surely, too, it is related to Alcofribas's assertion in that same preface that there are deep meanings within the Silenus box of his writings. At the end of the first chapter of Gargantua, Alcofribas explains that to "pantagruelize" means to drink when it pleases you and to read about the dreadful deeds of Pantagruel. This early definition retains some link with the non-Rabelaisian farcical figure of Pantagruel as a thirst-making devil. But already in an addition to the very end of Pantagruel, which was published in a new edition of that book in 1534 at the time Rabelais finished work on Gargantua, the term "Pantagruelist, is defined not simply as a mode of
reading and drinking but as a way of life. To be "good Pantagruelists" people should "live in peace, joy, and good health, always making good cheer." The most abstracting reference occurs in the prologue to the Third Book . Pantagruelism is a "specific form and individuating property . . . by means of which those who possess it never take in bad part any things whatever which they recognize as springing from a good, frank, loyal heart." In the Fourth Book' s prologue, also, the somewhat briefer reference to Pantagruelism relates an abstract definition to the behavior resulting from possession of this character trait. Dr. Rabelais, the "author," explains that he is, "thanks to a bit of Pantagruelism (that is, you know, a certain gaiety of spirit pickled in the scorn of fortuitous things) well, strong, and ready to drink, if you will." Pantagruelism is Rabelais's name for that virtue that makes conviviality possible. It describes not merely a tolerance of matters beyond personal control but a positive empathetic desire to appreciate others' intentions as more important than their actions.
But why did Rabelais invent this quality? What was it about the developing form of his novels that led him to give it regular prominence at paratextual points of contact between author and reader? To ask the question is almost to answer it: Pantagruelism. identifies an attitude that Rabelais regards as essential in the author-reader relationship. He therefore represents his authorial personae as possessing it, and he represents his chief actors, the Pantagruelians, as bonded together by it. Pantagruelism insures conviviality in advance and at a distance; it reaches beyond the narrative frame to embrace author and readers unknown and unknowable, everyone who manages to accept the unforeseeable circumstances of life gaily and with spirit.
By giving the word "Pantagruel" a substantive form at the paratextual beginnings and ends of his books Rabelais places this element at once inside and on the margins of textuality. Pantagruelism plays over
the text as well as being incarnate in Pantagruel. This allows the books' hero to take the voice of the masked author on occasion, just as the author of the prologues does; if the prologue author growls at the "caphars" and "cagots" who beset him and his writing, Pantagruel does too.
Pantagruelism is Rabelais's idea of social wisdom. It derives from two simple assumptions, humanist and communalist. People possess common human reactions that incline them to laugh at many of the same things, regardless of class and cultural differences. These class and cultural differences are related in overlapping and intersecting rather than sharply divisive ways because people are simultaneously members of many correlative and adjacent communities; their sense of connection is thus as easily or more easily summoned than their sense of separateness. Yet this simple, clear basis on which Rabelais stakes his ability to hold the attention of a disparate, unknown readership is belied by the outcry against his books — an outcry which mounts almost as steadily as the sales. Readers there are many, but not all of them laugh, and even fewer, perhaps, sense much communal identity with each other.
There are readers who are positively committed to twisting the author's words, writes Alcofribas in the new conclusion of Pantagruel in 1534: "false cenobites, cagotz, snails, hypocrites, caffars, " they pretend to be absorbed in devout contemplation when in fact they spend all their time reading Pantagrueline books, "not as much for a joyous pastime as for the purpose of wickedly doing someone mischief." Here is the first sketch of the refrain that becomes in the Fourth Book the myth of Anti-Nature. These bad readers do nothing but "article, monarticle, twist their necks, buttock, ballock, and diaboliculate, that is, calumniate." Flee, abhor, and hate such folk "like I do," exclaims Alcofribas, and then he adds the definition of Pantagruelists in the very last phrase of this amended book: "And if you wish to be good Pantagruelists (that is, to live in peace, joy, and good health, always making good cheer), never put your faith in people who watch through peepholes."
When the attack is mounted against the "haggling critics" who are once again berated as cagotz, caphars, hypocrites, and so on at the conclusion of the prologue to the Third Book, the context is once again that of apprehension about the reception of the novels, and the books are once again called Pantagrueline. But this time the prologue author goes much further in dealing with those who read his books wrongly. Calling his books a kind of wine, he invites "every true boozer, every true gouty fellow," to come and partake freely of as little or as much as they wish. However, he adds that "I have broached my cask only for you gouty freeholders and drinkers of prime vintage" (italics added). Then follow the vituperative references to bad readers that culminate by calling them dogs and in which the narrator imitates — or hears? — their growling.
The hyperbole of the passage insures its oblique, ironic interpretation. The writer Rabelais, beyond his fictional persona, knows that he can do very little about bad reading and biased metatexts. But does this ironic undercutting of the text's violence extend so far as to cause, and intend to cause, doubt about how nefarious Rabelais's detractors really are? Hardly. Even supposing that Rabelais wants readers to think less ill of his enemies than his narrative personae do, his text gives readers
no means to do so except that of encouraging a generalized skepticism about anything these personae say.
The critical situation was, in a way, impossible to treat otherwise than in this ambivalent fashion, which on one hand asks for naive trust in all the authorial personae's intentions and on the other develops an ironic stance toward those same personae's affirmations. Rabelais could not in his paratexts openly debate Sorbonne theologians, papal devotees, Calvinist zealots, and assorted moralists; the ideological stakes were too risky and Rabelais's own moral and intellectual sentiments were too complex to make open ideological confrontation anything but a travesty. But Rabelais must bear the consequences of his unwillingness to state in detail how he disagreed with those attacking him. When the authorial personae affect moral and doctrinal purity, when Dr. Rabelais or Alcofribas protests that the sole intention of the stories is to cheer people up, readers are forced to conclude one of two things about the attitude of the real author: either such affirmations are subterfuges, or the real author is very muddleheaded about the implications of what he writes in the text proper. The latter is most unlikely, and so Rabelais's ranting harshness in calling others hypocritical makes it hard to avoid invoking the same adjective about his writerly strategies.
"The slander of certain cannibals, misanthropes and agelastes," Rabelais declares in the dedicatory letter of 1552 to Cardinal Odet, "was so outrageous and beyond all reason that I lost all patience and decided not to write another iota." They said my books were full of heresies, he continues:
Gay fooling there is in plenty, offensive neither to God nor the King: such is the sole subject and theme of these books. Heresies there are none, unless one were, perversely and against all usage of reason and common language, to interpret [them] in such a way that I would a thousand times rather have died, if it were possible, than to have thought so. It is as though bread meant stone, fish serpent, and egg scorpion.
The references in the last sentence are biblical; did Rabelais also want to begin suggesting here the association amplified in the shortly following chapters about fishy, serpentine, eel-like Sausages? Rabelais continues, reversing the easy irony of earlier paratexts in which prologue authors vowed to defend the truth and worth of everything in the Pantagrueline books "up to any point short of [a heretic's] burning."
For I have said openly to you, complaining of these [slanders], that if I did not deem myself a better Christian than they portrayed me, and if in my life, writings, words, or even thoughts I detected a single spark of heresy . . . I would myself, imitating the phoenix, pile up the dry wood and light the fire in order to burn myself in it.
Between 1546, when the Diogenic author of the Third Book' s prologue denied his book's "wine" to slanderous readers, and 1552, when this prefatory letter was written and published, Rabelais abandoned the method of establishing rapport between author and readers whose features we have traced. In the prologue to the incomplete Fourth Book of 1548 and in the prologue and dedicatory letter Of 1552 Rabelais developed the difference between good and bad readers so far that he imperiled the communal-humanist code on which he had based understanding of his writing. Central to that code had been, as Rabelais explained in the prologue to Gargantua, a collective, cumulative sense of words' meaning; neither author nor any particular set of readers was supposed to possess, let alone express, full metatextual truth about the text. But in 1552 Dr. Rabelais does claim to possess his text's meanings; moreover, he claims that he can interpret the words of his slanderers as perfectly as his own, by employing his knowledge of the uses of reason and common language.
The prologue of 1552 is the first introductory paratext that unambiguously proclaims François Rabelais the author. The proclamation is reinforced by its association with the dedicatory letter and its details about the author's reaction to his critics. Taken together, the two seem to offer as straightforward a portrait of François Rabelais as he was capable of presenting in a fictional context. As the author changes, so do the readers. For the first time the prologue carries a subtitle or salutation that qualifies the readers to whom Rabelais the author addresses himself: To well-wishing — or benevolent — readers (aux lecteurs bénévoles ). The earlier prologue-writers' invitation to readers of every stripe is abandoned.
To the moral distinction of the subtitle Rabelais adds a greeting that carries social overtones: "worthy people" (gens de bien ), he begins, and several lines afterward he asks after their wives and families and comments on the produce of their vineyards. These are not the same folk as the "illustrious boozers" and "precious poxy fellows" (Gargantua ), the "chivalric and illustrious champions, nobles, and others" (Pantagruel ), and "illustrious boozers" and "precious gouty fellows" (Third Book, Fourth Book of 1548) summoned to the threshold of earlier publications. Cross-cutting indications, ironically heightening and lowering terms of pseudo-camaraderie and social status, are abandoned in favor of a unidimensional address to comfortably situated men of means. In the reissued Third Book of 1552 Rabelais takes care in the prologue to alter his
readerly addresses at the same time as he clarifies his authorial persona; he adds the words "Good people" (bonnes gens ) to the beginning, before the salutation to boozers and gouty folk, and he inserts "worthy people (gens de bien ) near the end of the prologue, when he identifies those for whom alone he intends to broach his wine cask of new stories.
The dedicatory letter indirectly reinforces this impression of an intended shift in the social status of Rabelais's represented readers: the author addresses himself effusively to one of the highest men of worth in the land, and in the course of the letter he vaunts his connection to the very highest:
The late King Francis of eternal memory was informed about these slanders and, having heard and comprehended these my several distinct books . . . as read aloud with the voice and pronunciation of this kingdom's most learned and careful [royal] reader . . . had found no passage suspect . . . . His son . . . King Henry . . . also had [heard the public reading], so that he granted to you [Cardinal Odet] for me a privilege and particular protection.
The causes of such paratextual shifts in 1552 were both short- and long-term. We have discussed the short-term causes in another connection: within months of its publication in 1546 the Third Book was condemned, in spite of its royal privilege, and King Francis died, rendering the political future for evangelical and humanist reform uncertain. Rabelais reacted with shocked anger. The hasty publication of a portion of the Fourth Book in 1548 with its bitter satire of royal politics and its concluding vituperative misanthropy documents part of his reaction. In 1550 Rabelais was introduced to Cardinal Odet, and in August a new royal privilege for all Rabelais's works was granted in the presence of
the cardinal, who had been entrusted by the king with responsibility for book censorship. The conjuncture of Rabelais's publishing fortunes thus veered sharply from nadir to zenith within four years. The tone of the dedicatory letter in 1552 reflects the rebound.
Publication and its protection was one thing; readerly misunderstanding was another. The longer-term cause of the paratextual. changes culminating in 1552 is Rabelais's slowly matured recognition that he could never expect to win over with laughter whole sectors of opinion, represented by the negative metatexts that had persistently attached themselves to his novels. Rabelais by 1552 seems to have recognized the enormity of the enemy; instead of moving to encounter and convert, praise and abuse, welcome and then make fun of one and all, he chooses his ground and reserves his wine. Offering the latter to one and all had done little or nothing to discourage the partial and distinctly unPantagruelist reading of his books. In 1548 the prologue narrator salutes his illustrious drinking companions in the usual way at the outset, but the fictional ambience that he then sketches is unprecedented in the prologues, mixing a law court case with the exchange of ambassadorial gifts between unspecified authorities. The context is that of patently arbitrary judicial and administrative proceedings similar to those satirized in the text proper of the first three books. In 1552 the fictional ambience of the prologue is equally unfamiliar, as we have seen: the semiprivacy of a house well equipped with books and wine and the complacency of familiar, well-off friends who know and share each other's tastes are substituted for the earlier helter-skelter street or tavern context. Is Rabelais then moving toward the world of the classic novel with its individualistic ethos and sharp caesuras between public and private?
A new surface appears in the texts of 1552, a surface sketched in 154.6 and 1548 but brought to more regular form in the full Fourth Book . The subtext, that is, the text's metaphorical prolongations and half-conscious intentions, correspondingly shifts as well. Juxtaposed to both the surface of the text and its implied extensions (its "substance-stuffed marrow" of current philosophical, religious, and social issues) is a third element, the countertext, which allows more play, more flexibility
in the way text and subtext are related. This is because the central rhetorical device of the countertext is mockery.
Rabelais's old notion of text was set forth explicitly in the prologue to Gargantua; the new notion is not formulated in any particular passage. I do not assert that it was consciously substituted for the earlier system; it is there, I would argue, in the same sense that Rabelais allowed for the existence of unconscious meanings in Homer. Although not a consciously deployed system, it is a consciously employed and repeatedly invoked stratagem in the Fourth Book . It is present here as a regular part of the kind of reading the author solicits from readers; it was present in earlier books only spasmodically. In Gargantua, Pantagruel, and the Third Book irony is met, supported, or overwhelmed by the exuberant faith expressed by the invention of Pantagruelism. In the Fourth Book mockery overtakes any and all affirmations, including those pertaining to Pantagruel and Pantagruelism.
Irony floods the narrative. Curiously enough, the regular adoption of a way of countering the surface of the story and its implications allowed Rabelais to preserve something of his humanist-communalist principles at the very point in his text where he seemed to abandon them. Contrary to the conclusions of some interpreters of the Third Book and the Fourth Book, populist sentiments are not abandoned in these late publications. Folkloric and antiofficial allusions do not disappear. They are stated obliquely; they are also critically and ironically evaluated along with other partitive social stances.
The idea of a Rabelaisian countertext is proposed and tested in this chapter as a hypothesis. It requires further application both within and beyond the Fourth Book, as well as comparison with other authors, before its usefulness as a way of reading the text can be confirmed. It certainly clarifies some puzzles which interpreters of the Fourth Book have encountered. That has been demonstrated already in this study in dealing with the Sausage War and its outcome. Beneath the surface
representation of Carnivalesque battle and voracious alimentary enjoyment is the mock epic subtext with its national pride in an iron sow once used to defeat the English. But the pride is comically, countertextually undercut by the piggish, massacring manner of the Pantagruelians' victory. The subtext's construction of battle as a realization of fecundity (the soldiers are carried in a succulent animal's "womb") is undermined by the character of the cooks who stick fingers and tongues into nearly everything and drop the rest before getting it to table. The Sausages appropriately adore a pig as their deity, but this propriety is countertextually undone by constructing the deity's form as a biblical idol that secretes mustard; the Sausages' worship rhymes with what was seen by evangelical reformers as a materialistic deformation in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Even more telling examples of the way countertextual techniques cut across and against surface and subtextual. meanings were observed in Rabelais's chapters about Quaresmeprenant. The strategy used toward readers in these chapters starts by encouraging their curiosity and then swerves toward forcing them to admit bewilderment, as Quaresmeprenant becomes not only less like Carnival but also less like Lent. Rabelais slides this personage from Carnival toward Lent and back again, not once but many times, as if intent on assaulting every effort at clear identification. These moves, I have suggested, do not produce ambiguity but rather stimulate attempts to read the text perspectivally.
Perspectival readings in the Third Book and the Fourth Book become more and more often ironic readings. Did this signal that the secondary world of the novels had come to seem entirely out of harmony with the primary, pragmatic world, even though Rabelais continued to represent in the paratexts an embodied connection to it through the wheeling
and dealing of the prologue narrators? At least we can conclude the following: ironic countertexts gave Rabelais's fictional universe somewhat more autonomy from other worlds — social, practical, natural, and supernatural.
It is useful to remember that fiction, like literature generally, had in the sixteenth century still no generally admitted functions or status separate from those of serving to amuse and adorn on one hand and of instructing or offering moral encouragement on the other. The lack of adequate vehicles to develop reasoned and sophisticated metatexts, noted earlier, reflected the more general absence of ideologically sanctioned ways of thinking about cultural endeavor in terms of its own ends. Michel Beaujour suggested that Rabelais's lack of an anthropological theory of culture was due to his inability to find a place for culture which, while not utterly subordinated to the commands of Supernature, would also be more than the reflection of Nature's impulses — any place, that is, other than "the practice of literature as satire." But the problem facing Rabelais was not just that or primarily that; after all, an adequate concept of human culture requires some idea of independence too from the exigencies of society. It seems likely that Rabelais practiced literary satire not primarily to combat the overbearing claims of God and Nature on human existence but because it allowed him to deal effectively with — and finally by means of his countertextual. strategies to wriggle away from — the threats of church and state condemnation.
Rabelais founded his solution not on the alienated autonomy of the writer of fiction but on reformulation of the connection between culture and society. In the earlier books the communalist ideal was based upon the humanist presumption that everyone possesses a good nature and potential generosity to which convivial appeal can be made: the harmonization of social groups may be possible, at least in leisure time. People may be at least temporarily restored to health from their folly through gaily communicated and exchanged experience. From shared cultural enjoyment positive social effects will flow. Having experi-
enced the steady enmity of certain critics over twenty years, Rabelais recognized that some people wanted no restoration from their folly. There is discontinuity between culture and society: good effects do not always flow from good causes. Although Rabelais never says so, he may have realized that one major reason for this is that cultural communities — theological readers for one, courtiers for another, humanists for a third, the hoi polloi gathered around shop doors for a fourth — do not normally have the kind of close communicative contact with each other that the intersecting social groups of his time did. Thoughts are relatively free — and idiosyncratic — because they are relatively distant from the body's involvements and quite far indeed from the thoughts of other people in different cultural milieus. That freedom has its consequences, one of which is ideological rigidity.
Rabelais's friends were his readers, but few of his readers had close contact with each other's ideas. He drew the conclusion: the prologue to the Fourth Book addresses itself to a community existing in scattered, physically unknowable form, united by an invisible and socially ineffective trait, that of wishing the author of the Pantagrueline tales well. Elaboration of the countertextual strategies to be analyzed in this chapter was the joint creation of a literary inclination (it is obvious that Rabelais had a flair for satire), an at least half-conscious sociology, and a most assuredly conscious political reaction to the threat to his books. It had the unexpected and, I think, unintended consequence of contributing to the construction of a cultural realm, that of literature, which has its own criteria of value and which has over centuries gradually come to be recognized by the very powers so often threatening it as possessing a peculiar but inevitable, dangerous but essential, autonomy from everyday life and its sanctions.
We will limit analysis of Rabelais's countertextual mockery in this chapter to its use in the Fourth Book at the most sensitive point of his text, the point at which contact with and defense against readers is normally strongest: the introductory paratexts. We begin by looking again at the prologue to the incomplete Fourth Book of 1548 so as to establish a comparative means of measuring the more formalized strategy of 1552.
"Illustrious boozers and you my precious gouty friends, I have seen, received, heard, and understood the ambassador which the Lordship of your Lordships has sent to my Paternity." Sometime in 1547 Rabelais traveled to the Roman See for the third time: the unctuous gravity of the curial setting inaugurates the 1548 prologue. The "Lordship of your Lordships" presents the prologue narrator with a "breviary" that contains not the liturgical texts which a monk from the Hyères Islands should chant at prescribed times but instead a bottle or bottles inscribed with rules for drinking: "So you wish that at prime I should drink white wine, at the third, sixth, and ninth hour, the same; at vespers and complin, claret . . . . I grant the request." The reference to breviary here does not lead the reader to an abyss, like that in the description of Quaresmeprenant in the later Fourth Book . The satire of ecclesiastical complacency and self-interest is sharp and direct, concealed just enough to be called a subtext. At the surface is ambassadorial protocol, requiring the taking of wine according to rule. Just below the surface is a monastery drunk who drinks, perhaps, alone. No convivial suggestion to share in the wine and to toast each other intervenes, unlike the case in previous prologues. However, a convivial exchange does take place — words for wine — however official and however physically remote. The motif remains but is significantly transformed.
"You say the wine of the Third Book was to your taste . . . . And you copiously invite me to continue the Pantagrueline history, allegating the utilities and fruits received from its reading by all men of worth [gens de bien]." The separation of good from bad readers in partly moral and partly social terms proceeds:
Responding I say and maintain, up to the point of burning [at the stake] (you understand: for obvious reasons), that you are exalted men of worth [grandz gens de bien], all descended from good mothers and good fathers, and I promise you, with the word of a commoner [literally, foot soldier, foi de piéton: inversion of foi de chevalier, as in the English proverbial phrase, "word of a gentleman"] that if I ever meet you in Mesopotamia . . . you shall receive a fine Nile crocodile [in return for the breviary].
The prologue of 1548 hops and skips between this aping of ambassadorial custom and that of a law court hearing the narrator's case against the slanderers of his books. Among the prologue's many fine inventions is maintenance of the fiction inaugurated by the narrator when he says, "O worthy people, I can't see you!" The flow of discourse is interrupted five times in fifteen paragraphs by seemingly confused queries to the narrator's interlocutors, as if the narrator were hard of hearing as well as poor of eyesight: "You say what? That you have not been irritated by anything in all my books . . . ? You pronounce judgment. What? To whom? All the old quarters of the moon to the caphards, cagots, matagots."
The law court reference is of course to the Parlement of Paris, which in 1545 and again in 1546 had confirmed the Sorbonne's censure of Rabelais's books. The narrator's imaginary law court inverts the behavior of the real one, finding Rabelais's books blameless and the slanderers guilty. "I pardon them," declares the narrator, but not "their malignities and impostures." Toward the latter, "I shall employ the offer made by Timon the Misanthropist to his ungrateful [fellow citizens] the Athenians." Converting himself into a hanging judge, he concludes — in parallel with the anecdote he recounts about Timon but in seeming contradiction with his "pardon" just a paragraph earlier — that "these diabolic slanderers shall all have to hang themselves during the last quarter of this moon. I shall furnish the nooses . . . . Once the moon renews, they'll not be accommodated so cheaply and will be forced to buy cord and choose a hanging tree on their own."
This conclusion, like the prologue generally, has been called contemptuous and uncompromising with respect to Rabelais's opponents, an "inflammatory text" whose irony is "acid sharp, not urbane and witty." It is indeed uncompromising and acidic but it is also urbane with its ambassadorial aping and witty with its law court inversion of Parlement's attack; most interestingly, it is implicitly self-critical by reason of the absurd hyperbole of its first fumbling and then forgotten pardons, its condemnations, and its modification of the condemna-
tions. Just as Rabelais in the Fourth Book exalts in new ways the sovereign command and philosophic wisdom of Pantagruel and at the same time pokes fun at the fellow's digressive vagueness, so also the author hangs out his anger to dry in this windy new-model prologue.
When Rabelais wrote the new prologue to the Fourth Book in 1552, his animal spirits revived, the acerbic quality had evaporated. This is the most buoyant of all his prologues, the most complex in its storytelling, and the most ironic in its doubly undercut narration. We have discussed its opening salutation, its Lenten game, its description of the author's happy state due to a pinch of Pantagruelism, and its ready invitation, so different from the 1548 prologue, to share. a glass of wine. The subject then turns with a pious flourish to the doctor's preoccupation with health and so moves to a theme that structures the remaining thirteen of its fifteen octavo pages: it is best to wish in moderation.
The subject is ostensibly homiletic: If your wishes are moderate, worthy people, God will reward the modesty. The Stoic-Christian lesson is illustrated with the story, adapted from Aesop, of a poor wood-cutter named Ballocker (Couillatris ) who loses his hatchet and clamors to the gods for it. Jupiter offers him a choice between a gold, a silver, and his own homely wooden-handled one; he chooses the latter, whereupon he is given all three and becomes rich. A corollary is added: Ballocker's neighbors, hearing his story, throw away their hatchets, too, but when they are offered the same choice they choose the gold-headed hatchet; for that they are, by order of Jupiter, beheaded.
Into this moralistic mold Rabelais pours all manner of other materials which so digress from it that its point is obscured and overwhelmed. The guiding thread in these distractions is the phallic theme announced with Ballocker's name and amplified in the ambivalent meaning of coignée : the word means "hatchet," but also "hatchet head"; the latter refers metaphorically to the female genitals, and as such is in
common parlance juxtaposed to the hatchet handle, which doubles as the penis. The theme is emblazoned in tall red letters, so to speak, when the deliberations of the Olympian gods about Ballocker prove to be dominated by Priapus. Priapus sings bawdy songs, explains in ample detail the meaning of coignée, and tells a tale about a fox and a dog that itself digresses from the heaven-storming difficulties with which Priapus's sovereign, the great god Jupiter, is preoccupied. Jupiter is particularly troubled by the ruckus raised at Paris by two fellows called by Priapus "little testicle-shaped self-admirers," the logicians Peter Ramus and Peter Gallandus, who in the 1550s discussed with great hue and cry the significance of Aristotle for their discipline.
The verve of the narrative outruns all possible didactic point. The prologue is a careening mixture of ancient and modern, profane and sacred topoi that swerve away from and then unexpectedly collide with each other. Its zigzags are prescribed by the techniques of Menippean satire, as André Tournon and Jerome Schwartz have demonstrated. Two of these techniques were especially useful in developing the altered mode of contact between the represented author and readers of the text, initiated by Rabelais in 1548. One device gives examples and draws out the implications of a precept so that, instead of confirming the precept, subsequent discourse obliquely suggests its falsity. The other device inserts what seems to be an aside in a story, a passing comment that so develops as to displace the whole universe of discourse. The two techniques are alike in the sense that they both depend on exploiting the polysemic and eventually contradictory character of seemingly unexceptional commonplaces.
The main example of the second technique has been mentioned: the story of the lost hatchet is developed so as to displace the theme from that of the wisdom of moderate desires to one of the necessity, for a man, of his hatchet handle. The phallic theme is overtly proclaimed everywhere in the story of Ballocker (the nickname means "testicled"; the woodcutter is immediately identified as well endowed) except at the moment of his choice of the restored hatchet. There the reader must drop below the surface of the text to read along lines only metaphorically indicated. In Tournon's paraphrase:
He "lifts the golden hatchet . . . he finds it rather heavy . . . That one is not mine . . . ." That is understandable: how is he going to "go to work," poor fellow, with that golden "hatchet" so heavy to lift? It's his own he wants, his "hatchet of wood, " says Rabelais, since it is especially the handle which counts . . . . When it is given back to him, he "attaches it to his leather belt, placing it under the backside [sous le cul] . . . "; equipped with his tool at last . . . happy Ballocker can pronounce his "little word" of triumph: "Have I got it? [En ay-je?]" . . . Don't ask me to explain things more clearly.
Tournon's commentary terminates by indicating the unspoken relation between this story of lost and found erection and the prologue's first theme, men's health and how to safeguard it: To wish for the means of subsistence that insure health is natural; to desire those things that directly affect the body — one's "physical integrity, the exercise of one's vital energies, pleasure, and fecundity" — is still more so. Thus it is that the "priapic equivocation" of the text suffuses with "erotic joy" the totality of text.
Erotic indeed. The sense and sentiment of male physical vitality wells up and replaces the theme of sober desire without ado when the scene shifts from Dr. Rabelais's study with its medical books and Bible to the heavens of Olympus. The sexuality evoked by the prologue's piquant language is as male-centered as in the Sausage War episode or the talk of the Pantagruelian company generally.
The sexuality is male, and so are its discursive effects. The prologue
springs from subject to subject like a young buck. The sedate beginning is forgotten; Rabelais's rabble-rousing readers return:
They [Ballocker's neighbors] chose the one of gold . . . but as they lifted it from the earth, bent over and stooping, Mercury cut off their heads, as Jupiter had decreed . . . . There you have it, that's what happens . . . . Take warning from that, you scabby fellows from the flat country, who say you wouldn't forego your wishes for ten thousand francs a year.
Faith in the Lord God, invoked with pious conventionality at the beginning, returns with onomatopoeic gusto at the end:
Hey, there, hey! And who taught you to prattle and talk of the power and predestination of God, poor people? Peace! Sh, sh, sh! Humble yourselves before his sacred visage and recognize your imperfections. It is on this, gouty ones, that I found my hopes.
Reference of any sort to predestination in the vexed theological ambience of the mid-sixteenth century in France was touchy business. The word carried a wide range of meanings whose nuances, Calvinist, Catholic, or other, all involved the reconciliation of God's omnipotence and omniscience with some version of human freedom. A loose interpretation of the words of this suddenly appearing preacher on the prologue scene would paraphrase it so: what people get in the way of wealth is fixed by almighty God, and so it does no good to talk about it. One should be as sober in religious talk as in one's desires. The subtext of such a clear and easy surface text answers the question of the preacher: Who taught you to talk of predestination? The heresiarch Calvin, of course.
A stricter and, as it happens, countertextual interpretation of the preacher voice would be: of course, what you get is fixed by God, but so indeed are wishes. To urge moderation in wishes is irrelevant because wishes like rewards are predestined. The moral of this story is that its moral is pointless. If this pointless point is indeed the one aimed at by Rabelais the author (as opposed to Dr. Rabelais, the author represented as narrating the prologue), then it is only the final turn in slowly undermining the prologue's ostensible theme.
Ballocker got back the "tool" he needs to "labor." He also became rich, while his greedy neighbors were killed. This is the point at which the unexpected preacher voice comes forward, scolding an audience of equally unexpected hecklers, unsavoury fellows full of scabs; the "worthy people" first greeted have disappeared. Yet is it not "dubious morality to excoriate materialism" — as seems to be done in Jupiter's execution of Ballocker's greedy neighbors — "by showering material gifts upon the simple Couillatris [Ballocker]"? From this perspective perhaps Ballocker's "little word" has another meaning, as he parades around his parish with the gold and silver hatchets slung around his neck: "En ay-je" can equally well be translated, "Haven't I got some?"
He has. The following paragraph dwells with delectation on Ballocker's canny conversion of his two superfluous but precious hatchets into coins and then into farmlands, farm animals, mills, forests, ponds, and much else. No wonder, then, that his neighbors threw away their hatchets and yelled to the heavens for Jupiter's help. But their destiny, pursues the prologue author, like that of anyone who wishes for too much, is cankerous, consuming sickness and death.
The preacher, in fact, promises nothing else. "Wish, then, for mediocrity [médiocrité: a middling, modest situation]" the preacher pursues. "It will come to you, and even better duly [deuement: in due time?] if meanwhile you labor and work." The "it" refers not to wishes, as a careless French reader — and many readers of unclear English translations — might think, but to mediocrity. When he continues "and even better duly," this laconic phrase is overtranslated — and so it is in many English translations — if it is taken to mean "and even better
things than you have wished for, in due time." The phrase, taken at its face value, and connected with either the following words that complete it or the preceding words about mediocrity, simply says: if you work away, you'll get better "duly," that is, in accordance with either the way you work or your properly mediocre wishes. The preacher says nothing about showers of riches from heaven.
The preacher's empty words are rejected with accuracy by his scabby back-country auditors: "But, you say, God could just as well have given me seventy-eight millions as the thirteenth part of a half [-penny]." This is the moment when the sermonizer thunders, "Quiet there! God has predestined everyone's fortunes and who are you to dare talk about it?" — which makes wishes great or small quite irrelevant.
Why does this displacement flow along so easily? It is, as I suggested in chapter 1, a question of not only Rabelais's personal skills as a storyteller and rhetorician but also of his use of the tools offered him by his context. The inchoateness of printed book conventions made it easier to think about mixtures of the rather rigid and narrow conventions of manuscript books with the panoply of oral storytelling techniques. Imitation of oral storytelling traditions rendered more rhetorically acceptable the shifts from one subject, one register of rhetorical appeal, one universe of discourse to others. Orality is flow; swift change and even inconsequence in subject matter is a condition of retaining contact with an easily distracted audience, in contrast to the concentrated attention on which one can count in readers. Awareness of the ironic effects in the prologue just noted depends in fact on readers' ability to turn back the pages and note with care the points at which the argument is dislocated. The presence of a countertext may be sensed in the swift-flowing movement from proposition to example to objection and back to apparent reiteration, but it can hardly be ascertained without the close reading that reveals gradual destruction of the initial proposition due to small phrases, grammatical referents, and polysemic slippage.
This situation of simultaneous sensitivity to oral and written techniques of persuasion and argument was Rabelais's context, not ours,
which may be one reason why twentieth-century scholars have one-sidedly lionized his writing skills — and those of the other great storytellers surrounding him in France — Marguerite of Navarre, Bonaventure des Periers, Noël du Faïl — not to mention those in other countries. They are analyzed and lauded too often one by one, so that the dual cultural atmosphere they shared and exploited — oral and written, printed and proclaimed — is only dimly perceived.
Rabelais's ironic retelling of the Aesopian tale of Ballocker not only undermines the sententious wisdom of Stoic-Christian prescriptions. It also belies Pantagruelism. How did Ballocker get the attention of the gods and move them to their reward? By making an infernal racket. Ballocker bewailed his fate, his unfair fortune, his awful predicament, "calling aloud indefatigably after each chapter of his prayers, 'My hatchet, Jupiter! my hatchet, my hatchet! only my hatchet or the money to buy another! Alas, my poor hatchet! The clamor was so loud and long that "it was heard with great astonishment . . . in the very consistory of the gods. 'What devil is it down there?' asked Jupiter, 'howling so horribly?' "
This behavior, not the Pantagruelists' gaily spirited disdain of fortuitous things, was adopted by the real author, in contrast to his prologue representation of himself. Rabelais howled so loudly and horribly — witness the prologues to the Third Book and the 1548 incomplete Fourth Book — that the great gods of censorship in France answered his prayers. He paraded the results as proudly as Ballocker did his hatchets. The order of the first edition of the Fourth Book in early 1552 was: title page; dedicatory letter "To the most illustrious prince and most reverend monseigneur Odet, Cardinal of Châtillon" dated January 28, 1552; privilege in the name of Henry II, King of France, dated August 6, 1550 and signed "By the King, Cardinal Châtillon present, countersigned Du Thier"; prologue; and text.
It is as if Rabelais intended his readers to see first his appeal for help and then its results, even though this order inverts the dates of composition of the dedication and privilege. The publisher, Fézandat in Paris, probably did not choose this order, since it was in the publisher's interest to manifest royal authorization as clearly and hence as quickly as possible in terms of the book's pagination. The wordy and circumstantial royal privilege, rather unusual for the times, seems almost to have been dictated in some parts by Rabelais.
On behalf of our dear and well beloved M. François Rabelais, doctor in medicine, it has been represented to us that, . . . having given to be printed several books . . . including certain volumes concerning the heroic deeds and sayings of Pantagruel, no less useful than delectable, the printers had corrupted, depraved, and perverted the said books in a number of places. They had further printed some other scandalous books under the name of the suppliant to his great displeasure, prejudice and ignominy, books totally disavowed by him as false and counterfeit.
Or, as the dedicatory letter put it, and as the reader had already been informed if reading through the edition of 1552,
King Francis . . . was informed about these slanders [concerning Rabelais's alleged heresies] and, having heard and comprehended these my several distinct books (I say it [i.e., he specifies that the Pantagrueline novels were issued in several separate volumes] because certain other false and infamous counterfeit ones have been attributed to me) . . . had found no passage suspect, [although one fellow] based mortal heresy on an N placed where an M should have been through the fault and negligence of the printers.
Francis's son, "our so good, so virtuous, heavenly blessed King Henry (may God preserve him long among us) also had [heard the public reading?], so that he granted to you for me a privilege and particular protection against the slanderers." Thus the privilege assures that:
We, agreeing fully to the supplication and request of the said A François Rabelais . . . give the right . . . to him to have printed and again placed on sale all and each of the said books and the sequel to Pantagruel . . . and at the same time to suppress those which have been falsely attributed to him . . . . Ceasing and causing to cease all troubles and impediments to the contrary, for such is our desire.
Little wonder that the final paragraphs of the dedicatory letter approach the limits of encomiastic hero-worship. Cardinal Odet's favor leads the author to hope that "you will be to me, against my slanderers, like a second Gallic Hercules in knowledge, wisdom, and eloquence, a [Hercules] Alexicacos in virtue, power, and authority, one of whom I may truthfully say what was said of Moses . . . by the wise King Solomon." A long quotation from the book of Ecclesiasticus ensues, which calls Moses and hence Odet a man chosen of God, made "like to the glorious saints . . . so that his enemies stood in fear of him." The praise is indeed grandiose. Are they Ballocker's naive tactics or Lucian's mocking ones, treading a tightrope "between protocol and parody"?
This near syncophancy is neither greater nor more serious than that exhibited in the fresco covering a half-dome space in the family chateau of Tanlay near Châtillon-sur-Loing, where the three brothers Châtillon, with Diane de Poitiers, King Henry II, and some other courtly figures, are depicted as Olympian gods and goddesses looking down in a row, frontally posed, on whoever happens in, with many of the women and some of the men voluptuously, virilely nude. Rabelais is playing the courtier's game, using a different but complementary rhetoric to that employed in the prologue, a rhetoric that allows him, as in the rest of his writing, to remain so well masked as to be nearly invisible.
To little avail. The Fourth Book , published at the end of January, was condemned on March 1 by Parlement at the request of the Sorbonne. Rabelais did not abandon his tactics; he redoubled them. As Michael Screech and Stephen Rawles have demonstrated, a new edition was hastily assembled in which an amended version of the prologue appears.
In the opening paragraphs of the prologue where the subject is personal health and how to retain it, Rabelais includes another of his mocking plays upon legal principles, the one in question being "the dead seizes upon the living" (le mort saisit le vif ). This principle had been explicated by a one-time friend of Rabelais, André Tiraqueau, with whom the author was apparently irritated for a number of reasons, among other things because of Tiraqueau's omission of Rabelais's
name from a list of famous doctors cited in one of Tiraqueau's works. Already in the first edition of the Fourth Book Rabelais paid back this slighting omission by according the legist manifestly excessive mention in this passage:
Good God! Good fellows! Is it not prescribed and practiced by the ancient customs of this most noble, most flourishing, most rich and triumphant realm of France, that the dead seizes upon the living? Note the recent exposition of this principle by the good, the learned, the wise, the most humane, most gracious and just And. Tiraqueau, counsellor of King Henry, second of that name, in his most dreaded Parlement at Paris.
Ah, yes. Tiraqueau was among those who as a royal lawyer in the Parlement of Paris influenced in one way or another, by omission or commission, the condemnations of Rabelais's books. That too played its part in the composition of this reference whose context in the fantasmatic prologue, as opposed to similar hyperbole about Odet de Châtillon in the dedicatory letter, makes countertextual mockery very probable. Not so the changes that Rabelais made in the second edition of this passage, probably between April and June 1552. The references to Henry II and his kingdom are augmented and inflated, while the rest of the words remain the same:
Is it not prescribed and practiced by the ancient customs of this most noble, most venerable, most beautiful, most flourishing, most rich realm of France . . . ? Note the recent exposition . . . by . . . Tiraqueau, counsellor of the great, victorious, and triumphant King Henry.
Screech and Rawles suggest that this amended edition was presented to King Henry and his place in it displayed. That is the reason, it is conjectured, that further legal proceedings against the Fourth Book were quashed.
Jerome Schwartz concludes from his perspicacious reading of the liminary texts to the Fourth Book that the dedicatory letter and prologue are written for "two audiences, two levels of the social hierarchy . . . two sets of standards and values." One uses "grand, rhetorical style" to influence the great; the other "invokes in comic style the humble goutteux [gouty ones] in their modest, simple, limited hope for life and health." But Schwartz's very perception of the mocking and self-critical details in both documents undermines any such clear division. Three kinds of readers are envisioned, not two, and the eyes of all of them would peruse all, not one rather than another in the whole proud parade of documents opening the Fourth Book : one category of reader includes high, elite, official, or exalted persons socially and culturally; the second mixes persons high and low in social estate and is unpretentious and popular in taste; the third, also indeterminate socially but not so easy to describe culturally, is an audience of mockers, a group of readers not necessarily Pantagruelist although certainly not slanderers, identified less by ideological inclinations or particular cultural style than by the ability to interpret signs at several, often conflicting levels of meaning.
The three audiences have been amply indicated in preceding pages with respect to the prologue to the Fourth Book . They are equally present in the dedicatory letter. Rabelais begins by placing himself in the same milieu as that of the persons he addresses: you are aware, prince, of how many great persons have been urging me to continue my Pantagrueline fictions, he writes. As he inaugurates his first theme he maintains this cultural context. It is the theme of the doctor concerned for his patients' health, the theme of the writer who heals his readers' grieved spirits with amusing stories. But humor is a rhetorical slide. It pulls discourse toward mixed effects and mixed audiences. Physicians should present a happy mien to ailing patients, Dr. Rabelais explains; they should never depress them through arrogance or indifference. A sick man once asked the physician Callianax — the narrator obviously still addresses primarily elite readers here, people who are humanist students of the classics — about his disease, "questioning him in the
fashion of noble Pathelin: 'Does not my urine tell you I shall die?' " You won't, answered the flippant doctor, provided that '"Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana, was the one who bore you.'"
You and I, my Cardinal, have seen or heard of the famous play about a shyster lawyer named Pathelin. With this reference to an anonymous farce written several generations before Rabelais's time, Rabelais beckons to a second audience. "'You've had your lunch, doctor; your breath smells of wine!'" runs Rabelais's next anecdote. "'Yours smells of fever,' the doctor replied! Urination and fever, breathing and smelling: such bodily references mix all classes of readers. What are they doing here, if Rabelais is only interested in wheedling the cardinal for political ends? He isn't.
In the fashion of the "noble" Pathelin trickster, writes Rabelais. This false social designation is the first mocking move, the first signal to the reader to take his distance from these representations. The second comes in the following paragraph, as Rabelais moves to his chief theme, the slanders upon him and the support of kings and courtiers. Although the surface context shifts back to an elite conversation between the author and an exalted person about others high and low, the subcontext remains satiric and also broadly popular. The slanderers who regard the author as a heretic treat Rabelais's nourishing books as if they were stones, snakes, and scorpions. Rabelais sarcastically employs Jesus' words to his disciples (Luke 11:11–12) against his sanctimonious adversaries; the reference would have been recognized not only by prelates like Odet but by the many whose daily, weekly, yearly bread, fish, and eggs were the preacher's homilies. Rabelais's dramatic offer to heap up wood and offer himself like a phoenix to the flames, should any "spark" of heresy be found in him to ignite such a pile, is another piece of self-consuming bravado: The phoenix burn only to be reborn. We have already discussed the ambivalence of the final paragraphs, threading their way between hyperbole and parody.
In the dedicatory letter as in the prologue Rabelais asks readers to perceive the representation of two audiences of mixed social origin but contrasting social status and power and a third audience of mockers and skeptics. There are two kinds of reader-listeners with their faces crowded around the book, well-clothed or shabby, sedate or silly, and there is a third kind further away, reflective and smiling. My guess,
pending further probes, is that Rabelais's orientation to these three different audiences emerges with stylistic distinctness after the mid-1540s. Nurtured during the eleven years of compositional silence (except for revisions) between 1535 and 1546 as Rabelais apparently pondered the metatexts gathering around his works and name, incipient in the prologue and through the text of the Third Book as well as in the prologue of 1548, the triple appeal became inseparable from composition of the full Fourth Book and inseparable too from its full understanding then and now.
There are no limits to Rabelais's irony in the Fourth Book . His countertextual proclivity for disingenuous hyperbole is transferred without compunction from the prologue of 1548 to the dedicatory letter of 1552, that is, from a paratextually designated "secondary" world of factitious ambassadorial politeness to a paratextually designated "primary" world of pragmatic officialdom.
1548: "You say what? That you have not been irritated by anything in all my books?" "It is a wonderful thing to be praised by the praiseworthy," as Horace used to say, as Cicero reports about Hector, etc.
1552: King Francis "found no passage suspect . . . . King Henry . . . granted to you for me a privilege and particular protection," which you, Cardinal Odet, mentioned to me at Cardinal du Bellay's St. Maur chateau, that "paradise of salubrity, amenity, serenity, commodity," etc.
1548: "You say the wine of the Third Book was to your taste and that it is good . . . . And you copiously invite me to continue the Pantagrueline history, allegating the utilities and fruits received from its reading by all men of worth" writes the doctor-monk-official; he adds that he graciously pardons the ambassador-reader for laughing at his books, explaining that he is "not so savage [farouche, as in Ferocious Island, as on the Hyères Islands] or implacable as you think."
1552: "Gay fooling there is in plenty, offensive neither to God nor the King . . . . Heresies there are none, unless one were . . . to interpret them in such a way that I would a thousand times rather have died."
1548: "You pronounce judgment. What? To whom? All the old quarters of the moon to the caphards, cagots, matagots . . . . If by these terms you mean the slanderers of my writings, you could more properly call them devils. For in Greek calumny is called diabole. You see how detestable the sin of calumny is before God and the angels (that is, when one impugns good deeds or speaks evil of good things) since . . . they are named and called devils of hell.)" although they are "properly speaking" only the "ministers" of hell's devils.
1552: "The slander of certain cannibals, misanthropes, and age-lastes was so outrageous and beyond all reason that I lost all patience:" Such people have fallen into the clutches of a "slandering demon, a diabolos [in contrast to the 1548 prologue, the word is printed here with Greek letters] who uses them to accuse me of such a crime" as heresy.
But of course every courtier knows that the world of official politeness is as artificial as any world of the imagination. This was even more true in the sixteenth century than at later periods because both kinds of world were less defined than they later became-vis-à-vis their ambience of intersecting social groups. The world of literature gradually attained a certain autonomy; so did the State.
The author is always masked. The question to ask about the real author's relation to text is not what or who represents him or her but where do the author's personae place themselves with respect not only
to represented but to real contexts. The reason for developing answers to this question of "where" by emphasizing the paratexts is that Rabelais more than most authors seems to have sought to place his authorial personae as precisely as possible halfway between his fictional contexts and the contexts beyond them. Not distinctions of intertextuality but the unraveling of Rabelais's intercon textuality has been a major purpose of this study. Pursuit of such distinctions is most valuable in explaining how Rabelais was led to stud his text with contemporary references broad and narrow, particular and generalizing, a technique that has made his writing opaque to later generations, obscuring not only its verbal beauties but much of its comedy.
The paratexts do not function in these novels as an exit from everyday life into a new world but as a gate between two kinds of reality, a gate that swings both ways. Instead of using paratext to pull readers in one direction only, into a book world separate from readers' lives, Rabelais uses it to peek out on the world beyond. "Ha, ha! . . . I see you!"
People say my gay fooling causes mischief, that I should be silenced — but consider Ballocker. Did he cease to squabble? No, of course not. And in the end he went proudly to Chinon with his badges of triumph round his neck, to Chinon, that "famous town, noble town, ancient town, the finest town in the world, as learned Hebrew scholars maintain." Chinon is Rabelais's home town. The author peeks out and pulls what he sees back in, and not only in the prologues, of course. Readers, like authors, are folded into the tale. "You are making fun of me here, boozers . . . . Go see for yourselves . . . . It was on Ferocious Island, I give you its name." The communities of the tale, the writing of the author, spill over into the sphere of readership. The mode of communication presupposes shared interests and shared activities. Dispersing the narrator transforms the sender of this communication into a member of groups that include the readers rather than establish him beyond the reach of the narrative and therefore also beyond the ken of readers. By the same device space is created for conflict among narrative voices without the disruption of all meaning. Narrative discontinuities
function as comic play rather than as the bottomless pit of split personality.
But these tactics are only gestures, not realities, for the gates of signification are moveable by authors of books only toward other words, not deeds. Only under one set of conditions, perhaps, does the word spinner of fictions reach beyond language in enduring and efficacious ways: the conditions of ritual. When speaker and audience share the same. opinion of the way in which signifying systems apply to reality — the kind of trust given in tribal societies to myth-telling masters of ritual — collective fictions may seem truth; dancing may lead to rain. Such shared understanding of fictions' performative power diminishes in proportion to the impersonality of the sender-receiver tie. As it disappears, the fiction writer's words are more and more liable to be misinterpreted. Dog-faced sourpusses rend the cultural consensus. The fiction writer is tempted to stop writing altogether.
This is Rabelais's context. Greeting his readers, flattering his patron, he insists at the entrance to the Fourth Book that readers and patron develop a second strategy in addition to Silenus-box reading of surface and subtext, for in this way they, the scattered heterogeneous crowd of his well-wishers, may still be able to laugh at the dissonant irreconcilables around them.
Do not read simply above and below the lines, but obliquely, athwart the text's seeming thrust. Do not attend alone to the enfolding embrace of my words, to the mixture of cultural milieus, to the kaleidoscopic variety of my changing social alliances. Develop precisely by means of my evocation of an ideal social compatibility founded in communal closeness, in resonance with my invocation of an impossible Pantagruelist social calm founded on the sense of human identity, a detachment from the text, these words, and any others.
The paratextual parade Of 1552 — dedicatory letter, royal privilege, prologue amenities, and some months later a prologue amended to offer further gratification to His Majesty Henry II — was not simply de-
veloped on political grounds or, still more simply, out of elitist disgust with and despair about the attitudes of common readers. One-dimensional interpretations like these cannot account for such seemingly minute revisions in 1552 as adding the morally selective "Good people" to the salutation of the prologue to the Third Book and the socially selective "worthy people, to the narrator's apostrophic turn toward readers near the end of it, while not deleting the popularizing references to riff-raff boozers and sufferers from gout which the emendations accompany. Rabelais's new system augments references at the surface of the text to those whom I call his third audience, the audience of ironic readers. It renders the text more shifty even as it accommodates the text to more officious uses. Rabelais disconnects his imaginary world from that of the hard-to-discern and even harder-to-calculate world of miscellaneous cultural milieus; he seeks to protect it from the cross-sawing exigencies of diverse ideological interests by playing the courtier's game. But he retains representation in his imaginary world of the rough-and-tumble world of miscellaneous social milieus. This was essential. This is where his stories get their salt. It is why his text is studded with contemporary references. Seen from the referential angle of meaning, the text is woven of attacks on law, medicine, theology, monasticism, and — more circumspectly, but no less unmistakeably — on royal politics. That his stories are offensive to neither God nor King are the most duplicitous words Rabelais ever wrote.
Rabelais's later career was passed not with recalcitrant monks, vagabond students, youthfully ambitious humanists and idealist evangelicals, but with grave men of power, usually generous-minded as far as we can ascertain but nonetheless ponderous with responsibilities and dangerous because of that. There is certainly in the Fourth Book a shift in Rabelais's sense of what is socially possible; that is implicit in the developing importance of ironic reading. But no determinate social or political philosophy can be found there. Nor should the shift in social sentiment be taken to imply any change in the author's subversive cultural sensibility. Rabelais remains inclined to bring the high low, to identify with the broadly popular, to expose to phallic and scatological ridicule every high and mighty pose, whatever the impulse to grant greater fictional sanction to his society's most deeply rooted communities: family, peasantry, royalty, the Christian church.
The advice offered readers in the prologue to Gargantua was Panta-
gruelist in tone and assumptions. Given time and the appetizing presentation of agreeable words, a text will be savored like wine and sucked like a bone for its marrow. Surface and subtext will come to coordinated comprehension. The advice offered readers in the prologue to the Fourth Book is neither so direct nor so optimistic: restrain yourselves; things are not what they seem. Although surface and subtext may show harmony, it is not necessarily so. Pantagruelist attitudes to the text are neither discouraged nor denied, but they are put in question by their ironic supplement. Dr. Rabelais and his worthy initial interlocutors in the prologue fade away pari passu with the disappearance first of the moral theme and then of the moral meaning. At the end we are back with the usual crowd listening to the usual speaker: that town-square and village-tavern bookseller, amateur of Galen, storytelling minstrel, and good-time-Charley whose function, it finally appears, is not so much to amuse, instruct, or impress, to preach, orate, or bore-let alone to mystify à plus hault sens — as simply to render the reader immune to the blandishments of any and all of these, treacherous or well meaning as they may be.
What cues does Rabelais offer readers to develop such immunity? Most obviously he accents the falsehood of his representations of himself, his readers, and their mode of contact. Less obviously he constructs contrasts between the patterns of oral and written discursiveness. The prologues initiate these books in conversational or oratorical style; the texts begin just as regularly in the mode of written chronicle. The plot unfolds with the largesse and meandering ease of an oral storyteller's audience-attentive art. It is interrupted ever and again by law-book, medical-book, shipfaring, warmaking, grammaticalizing, poetizing passages that play upon written forms of communication. The reader is ever being urged to move on, turn the page, and follow the
flow; but the accumulation of contrastive styles whispers that it would be well to reverse the action, flip back the pages, review the running discourse and note the implications of its illogic. The pages of a printed, bound, handy-sized book of moderate cost allowed the latter to be done with a frequency and facility unknown in the age of manuscripts.
Demonstration of the communalist assumptions found in the Rabelaisian text centered on the way authorial and readerly personae, given multiple form, overlap without replicating each other. Faced with an impersonal medium, using the inchoateness of its new printed form, Rabelais created a peculiar type of paratext in which the scattered and distant partners in printed communication appear pressed together, jostling each other and the author in remarkably sensuous ways. Giving them an artificial and embodied closeness, Rabelais moved the more easily among heterodox discourses, varying praise and abuse, high titles and low, friendliness and scorn.
For Rabelais the social fact of communal closeness led on naturally to the social ideal of conviviality. Conviviality was not represented simply as an atmosphere generated among the Pantagruelian actors in his books; allegiance to it, acceptance of its importance to good living was considered, at least in the early books, as indispensable to the real reader's understanding of the real author's intentions. Such were the implications to be drawn from the prologue to Gargantua . Correct understanding of my books, Rabelais implies, arises in the atmosphere of conviviality, just as it has been part and parcel of my composition of them. Pantagruelism, which in this early book is nearly identical with conviviality, is not a Platonic Christian essence, acquired through moral exercise and divine help. It is a materially and communally engendered aspect of the body social and arises, like the flow of animal spirits from heart to brain in the body natural, from good fellowship and good imbibing.
This connection of "wine"-inspired reading with "wine"-inspired writing signified the embracing cultural action enacted and hence indirectly advocated by Rabelais in his earlier novels. Of course literature, distilling experience, offers readers as well as creators an intoxicating realm of special, ideal meanings. But the creation as well as the understanding of such a secondary world always takes place in reciprocity with daily life, with a first world in connection with — not in reflection of — the intercontexts through which and by means of which writers
and readers think, feel, and conclude. At their fullest, words thus act upon those who distill them and imbibe them like double-action drugs, cheering up lives with fight-hearted stories while injecting at the same time a dozen kinds of other thoughts and referents and verbal felicities.
This construction foundered. The obsessively reiterated denunciations of those attacking him make Rabelais's statements in the dedicatory letter about losing all desire to write relatively credible. Although the books never ceased to sell and patrons never abandoned him, Rabelais seems to have needed some more express response from the generality of his readers or perhaps less express response from the minority of his enemies. We have indicated a number of culturally and historically conditioned reasons for such attitudes in these enemies, in contemporary readers, and in Rabelais himself; one might add to these reasons, as far as Rabelais goes, the factors of the author's age and acquired experience. Whatever the reasons, Rabelaisian idealism declined. The character of Pantagruelism changed. In 1534. Pantagruelists "live in peace, joy, and good health, always making good cheer"; communalism is consonant with humanism, anyone may potentially join with anyone else in such conviviality. By 1552 it has become a personal faith, an individual's mode of resistance to life's troubles. The communalism that continues to exist in the Fourth Book is no longer necessarily part of Pantagruelism.
In the midst of the Fourth Book even this chastened redefinition of Pantagruelism seems to break down. Rabelais shows Pantagruel erupting in anger at the behavior of the dog-faced men, incapable of laughter, who are Anti-Nature's children. Pantagruel betrays Pantagruelism, at least at the surface of the text. From a countertextual point of view, however, the situation is less clear.
By making explicit, as he habitually does, the differences between the position and points of view of author, narrator, and narrative actors, Rabelais requires his readers to regard any utterance by any of his characters as having several aspects. "Pantagruel" erupts, or rather Alcofri-
bas by means of Pantagruel, or rather Rabelais-the-person via Rabelais-author, Alcofribas-narrator, and Pantagruel-putative hero. Then, by adding names designating real persons — Calvin, Postel, DuPuyherbault — Rabelais the author asks readers to step away from these fictional frames toward a world where denunciations could have fatal consequences. The author asks readers, moreover, as his well-wishers to agree with him in denouncing these real persons. But at the same time the author obliges them — the fictive audience of well-wishers for his fiction — to take that step in the company of Pantagruel, a person who exists only by means of a threefold fabrication. The pretense of stepping beyond fiction is thus itself mocked.
One must conclude that it is a fictive being who has exclaimed about an issue existing primarily in the fiction and only secondarily and obliquely beyond it, the abstract and general question of the proliferation of Anti-Nature's children. Such a question has little to do with Pantagruelism, that scorn of particular, real vicissitudes such as Rabelais the person faced. The author's transfer of the angry attack on calumny to Pantagruel's mouth from Dr. Rabelais's (the accusatory epithets in the prologue of 1548 are the very ones repeated here) filters the anger at the same time as its verbal expression is magnified.
Far from documenting a complete desertion of earlier faiths, the dark, vindictive representations that may be seen in parts of the Third Book and the incomplete Fourth Book turn out to be forerunners of the more complex and efficacious way of expressing them in the full Fourth Book . Mockery, serving heretofore as a defensive shield, becomes a weapon. Just as there had perhaps always been three voices in the author's head — Pantagruelist-humanist, misanthropic-divisive, and ironic — so also, the author now suggests, must the reader allow all three to operate upon his understanding. Pantagruel and Pantagruelism no longer even pretend to integrate the text with sovereign confidence; yes, society's parts and roles overlap, but they neither balance nicely
nor laughingly agree. You and I, author and reader, find ourselves ridiculously, ironically near and far from each other and from the life we would like to dominate but cannot. The best we can do is to try and trick it into compliance with our immoderate desires and moderate estate.
In the seventeenth and the eighteenth century critics, far from worrying about the difference between forms of authorial and readerly representation, let alone about the relation of ironic to other kinds of understanding demanded by the text, became obsessed with clearing away narratological illusions in order to get at the actual allusions Rabelais was thought to have concealed for reasons of political safety. The Elzevier editors added a four-page key identifying Gargantua and Gargamelle and Pantagruel and the other characters as kings and queens and other contemporary personages, Ferocious Island as the Touraine country, and so on. Jean Bernard, who in 1741 reedited in augmented form Le Duchat's edition of 1711, reproached his predecessor for not having treated in sufficient detail the contemporary references hidden in Rabelais's text, allusions that made of his work an "imagedevinette."
One reason for this obsession was, as we suggested, the disappearance of Rabelais's contexts. But why did people seek to remedy this disappearance in such a pointillist fashion and why, for such a long time, did all metatextual criticism of Rabelais pursue meaning in this shallowly realistic way? Such uniformity suggests the pervasive, structural influence of that Foucauldian "classical episteme," with its logic of separate partitions, its Cartesian clear distinctions, and its politico-rationalist insistence that everything be recognizable and organized. In this "classical" ambience to read Rabelais's text was no longer a matter of imbibing a bit of Pantagruelism and a bit more of Menippean skepticism, and of lending one's understanding by turns to an ideal of communal relations that joined humanism, roguery, Christianity, and festival in leisurely conversational terms and to descriptions of social relations that set the same factors at sword's points. As scholarship and society, literature and manners, sought with greater and greater efficacy
to individuate, organize, and control belief and behavior, it became impossible to read Rabelais's works in crosscutting, complementary ways.
Polished society in the later seventeenth century came to reject Rabelais not simply because his bonhomie came to look like maudlin prattle. Rabelais was full of "filthy corruption." His phallic vulgarity and scatology, the gaiety with which he depicted violence became unacceptable. Rabelais had to be expurgated, his satire saved but his ill manners put aside. Reactions like these ran parallel to the development of a courtly civil society in which nobles no longer shared the mores of the country folk among whom they had earlier lived and in which bourgeois elites gradually withdrew from the behavior patterns of the workmen who still occupied the ground story of their home-located businesses. As the new society emerged, built on individual enterprise, juridico-moral equality, and the privatized nuclear family, membership in groups became more voluntary, based on interest and belief rather than on birth, occupation, and residence.
These changes ruined understanding of the communalist assumptions characterizing Rabelais's text. His books idolize a carefree youthful male camaraderie in education, sport, adventure, and love that had its correlatives, although certainly not its realizations, in contemporary society. In later centuries these correlatives largely disappeared, as the orderly supervision of a minutely graded, morally stringent schooling and confessional took hold. Perhaps the difference should be put even more strongly. Family life is kept in the background in these novels, as is work. A polymorphously "perverse" freedom characterizes the life of the male protagonists nearly without interruption from the time Gargantua's nursemaids tie ribbons about his pretty little thing to the end of the Fifth Book, when it seems likely that Pantagruel and his double Panurge will soon be married. Insofar as Mikhail Bakhtin is correct about the carnivalesque essence of the Rabelaisian text, such carnivalism arises from not only the permanent atmosphere of leisure utopianly assured the Pantagruelians but also their one-sided sexuality and youth-
fulness. After the sixteenth century, as childhood, adolescence, and young male confraternities were increasingly regulated, the behavior associated earlier with this zone of freedom came to seem bizarre, reprehensible, and irrelevant.
The change from communalist to individualistic assumptions about social behavior was not sudden. Individuation and some ethics of individualism — salvation of the individual soul, for example — are already present in the tenth century and in the first, for that matter. But the balance of power between communal and individual modes of living, as publicly recognized norms, shifted decisively toward individualism in the eighteenth century. This had not happened in Europe since the advent of Christianity. The changed balance was ideal as well as practical, for the ideal of individualism was seen more clearly the more that practical means were forged for people to live separate, autonomous existences, and the reverse was equally true. From the eighteenth century onward idea and practice reinforced each other.
Even if communal membership more than individual peculiarity defines character in Rabelais's works, much also speaks for individuality. Panurge is not just the type of the rogue. Unlike the narrator in Nashe's Unfortunate Traveller, he is more than a boisterous voice who articulates an expansive social scene with his restless energy. Unlike the author of Lazarillo de Tormes, Rabelais shows not only what is done to the rogue and how he reacts to it but also how Panurge's character shapes action and propels plot, most notably in the Third Book . The growth and changes in character of Pantagruel have particularly engaged critics, to the point of denying nearly all connection between the giant sketched on the model of oral popular tales and the wise Stoic Christian of the Third Book and the Fourth Book .
Because the Rabelaisian text takes for granted the notion that people's character is a consequence more of the way they behave with others than of their inward wits, it is rather misleading to trace the development and even the growth in character of Rabelais's heroes one by one through the different books of his text. The communal ambience, the framing action of each part of the text, is primary. But within the parameters of this generalization one must note the voice of empathy in Rabelais's work. It is a "characterological" voice, used most con-
spicuously to animate Pantagruel, Panurge, and Friar John, making them vivid individuals. This empathetic talent is also what gives horrifying individuality to the portrait of Quaresmeprenant: the devastation he has wreaked (on his own anatomy as well as on Ferocious Island) is shown as the consequence of psychophysical peculiarities developed in correspondence with the demands of socially prescribed customs. However monstrously strange he is, Quaresmeprenant is depicted not only as a personification but also as a person, confronting the conflicting demands of two normative notions of daily life.
Both empathetic, characterological voices and sympathetic, sociable voices play over the text. The individualizing kind of voice supplements the voice that merges, the tavern voice that enfolds itself alcoholically into the group, the shipboard voice and the adventurer's voice that recognize situations not as yours and mine but ours.
What has led commentators toward historicizing or psychologizing realism has probably been less the edges in the text of an individualistic understanding of personality than Rabelais's gift for sharply defined yet many-faceted characterization, a quality as well shown in the portrayal of events as in the description of protagonists. The "Council of Chesil": the yawning procrastination and at the same time the numb-witted arrogance of the Church's attempt to hold back the tides of reform is struck off in a single phrase. Anti-Nature's children, somersaulting through life as if their heads and feet had turned into ball-bearing roller skates; Sausages scampering up trees like squirrels or martens; cook soldiers with names like Hotpot and Sourbacon swarming out of the belly of an iron sow: the images are indelible.
In the twentieth century, as recognition of the breakdown of individual identity has become a commonplace of literary practice, Rabelais's use of communally shaped symbols has begun to influence criticism. Analysis of the folkloric, "medieval!" oral-popular side of the writer's work has intensified. The most powerful evocation of the communal side of Rabelais's writing has come from a man who lived in Lenin's and Stalin's Russia during the construction and destruction of the Marxian ideal of community. Bakhtin's carnivalesque interpretation of Rabelais's communalism was a supremely political act of communication in the sense in which we have used this phrase. It has more than any other single work dislodged Rabelaisian metatexts from their wonted individualist-humanist assumptions; with respect to Bakhtin's more immediate intellectual context, it has had wide-ranging influence as an effectively disguised voice of protest against Stalinist "community."
The interpretation is nonetheless a distortion. If carnivalism means the limitless inversion of official norms during a privileged time of festive freedom, then that kind of inversion can scarcely be found in either Rabelais's text or the behavior of people during Carnival and similar festive moments in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance. Masked defiance there was, in fistfuls. But it was limited and directed by the nature of communalism, which is local, unlike the nature of socialism, which is general.
Rabelais's procedures are less carnivalesque than communal and less festively inversive than mockingly masked. The procedures are as various as his ways of participating in popular tastes and amusements and also in the interests of all kinds of corporate elites, medicinal, educational, ecclesiastical, and noble. Rabelais's communal memberships were nearly all partial and nonexclusive. There was no concrete totality to which he could belong, vis-à-vis which fractions of the whole or rival totalities must appear unjust or evil — unless one counts the emergent totalisms of Catholic and Protestant Christendom, which indeed gave Rabelais trouble. There was no broad undifferentiated populace into which he was pulled regardless of intent, so that the totality of the people seemed more like the Sausages, inconstant and silly, than like the monstrous Physeter, so alien and aggressive.
To say that Rabelais's communalism has little to do with the binarily reductive mass/elite and popular/official divisions of later European history or with a carnivalism that laughingly places the interests of the whole people above those of its fractions, does not mean that the Rabelaisian text offers no vision of totality or any space to the carnivalesque spirit. The varied oral, literary, and performative practices to which Bakhtin draws attention did not cohere to form a unified tradition of folk-created carnivalism, and Rabelais did not bend his text to serve the ideological purposes of such a carnivalism. But these "ritual spectacles," "comic verbal compositions," and "various genres of billingsgate," however disparate their source and purpose, are nevertheless important sources of what Bakhtin calls Rabelais's "nonofficial" view of the world — along with such elite-inspired comic elements as the myth of Anti-Nature's children and the image of the Sausages' flying pig deity. Rabelais's worldview, elite and popular by turns, is always nonofficial and hence frequently subversive, inversive, and carnivalesque. The links between the parts of Rabelais's text that are inversive and subversive and those parts that, even when supporting king and church, do so nonofficially (humorously, humanistically, fabulously), might be more accurately characterized as organicist and spiritualist than as popular and carnivalesque.
Organicism: against the mechanical, against the dogmatic, against rules and those dedicated to rules and regularity like the children of Anti-Nature; for matter, for fertility, for life-that-grows, for energy-that-unleashes. Spiritualism: for matter that grows when it "dies," for
the mysteries of birth and creation, for the ever-unfinished body; against inert matter and inert acceptance of the world that is. Spiritualized organicism links Rabelais's naturalism and humanism, his "medieval" feudal corporatism and "Renaissance" civic Platonism, his commonplace anticlericalism and reforming evangelism. Organicist, not carnivalesque, spirit supplies the energy that empowers Rabelaisian comedy. Rabelais's spring of "animal spirits" would have remained dry, the author assures Cardinal Odet; Pantagruelism is gaily pickled "spirit"; Alcofribas Nasier's abstraction of "quintessence" harmonizes the effects of his storytelling with the nature of the world, just as the alchemist attempts to imitate nature's production of precious metals by studying the relations among the world's organic essences.
For Bakhtin the most attractive aspect of these venerable Western notions of spirit-impregnated mineral and animal life is embodiment. Embodied spirit, unlike inert, inanimate matter, bubbles forth in animal good humor, in gaiety and laughter. "He [Rabelais] was consistently materialistic, and moreover approached matter only in its bodily aspect." Bakhtin's idea of "materialism" is dialectically Marxist. He refers frequently to the regenerative nature of the body in Rabelais's work, whereby that which dies is already a stage in that which is reborn. "The material components of the universe disclose in the human body their true nature and highest potentialities; they become creative, constructive, are called to conquer the cosmos, organize all cosmic matter."
To document this view of Rabelais's materialism Bakhtin quotes the
passage at the end of the Third Book about the wondrous plant called Pantagruelion. The "divination and apotheosis of man" Bakhtin writes, is expressed in the comic eulogy of Pantagruelion, when the gods, terrified at the power the herb has given to men, hold a council to discuss the dire consequences of its discovery, concluding, as Rabelais writes, that
[Pantagruel] will soon marry and his wife will have children . . . . Perhaps his children will invent some herb with the same productive capacity [semblable énergie], by means of which humans would be able to visit the source of hail, the springs of rain, and the workshop of lightning; they could invade the regions of the moon, intrude into the territory of celestial signs and take up residence there, some at the [constellation of the] Golden Eagle, others at the Ram, others at the Crown.
Bakhtin comments: "After the invention of aviation (which Rabelais foresees), man will direct the weather, will reach the stars and conquer them. This entire image of the triumph of mankind is built along the horizontal line of time and space, typical of the Renaissance . . . . Not the biological body, which merely repeats itself in the new generations, but precisely the historic, progressing body of mankind stands at the center of this system of images."
All of this modernizes Rabelais's words exorbitantly. Bakhtin, commenting on the Pantagruelion chapters, abandons demonstration of his interpretive keynote, Rabelais's inveterate carnivalesque spirit. Submitting to the exigencies of an ideological code to which he apparently adhered, whether wittingly or grudgingly, consciously or unconsciously, Bakhtin passes over the episode's burlesque qualities, its caricature of the terrified Olympians, and considers it only from the serious side, as a progressive vision of man's technical future. Thus he concludes his meditation on this episode, stressing the epochal significance of Rabelais's "concept of the body": such a concept represents "not abstract thought about the future but the living sense that each man belongs to the immortal people who create history." From the biological body to the historically creative body, the ever-becoming of Humanity: this is a Hegelian-Marxist interpretation, it is true, but Marx's own thought was, especially in its early development, indebted not only
to Hegel but also to the broad Western tradition of Platonic humanism. Bakhtin's metatext reveals new aspects of Rabelais's text because it is an ideological descendant of many of that very text's thought patterns. It obscures other aspects because it is written in the fight of the post-Rabelaisian development of those thought-patterns.
What, then, is Bakhtin's metatextual discovery, if it is neither this materialism which overmodernizes Rabelais nor the idea of an immemorial life of the people expressed in its carnivalesque spirit, an idea that postulates an ahistorical pan-Carnivalism so that the text can ap-
pear as its reflection? To isolate this discovery requires a distinction between Rabelais's authorial individuality and his participation in a broad current of European thinking and writing stretching from Boccaccio's time to Ben Jonson's. This current may be defined as the effort to synthesize three heterogeneous bodies of culture: the stories, myths, medicine, ritual, and festive performances of nonliterate folk and popular culture; the literate non-Christian science and literature of antiquity; and the literate Christian worldview of medieval times. If one characterizes this effort as carnivalesque, then one implies with Bakhtin that the first of these heterogeneous elements provides the basis of integration for the others. A closer look at the text suggests that any of the three elements may, in a given passage, serve as an organizing principle for incorporating particular elements — proverbs, myths, science, stories, etc. — from any of the three bodies of culture. Other writers and thinkers did the same kind of thing: Thomas Dekker in The Shoemaker's Holiday, Agrippa von Nettesheim in On the Vanity of Sciences, Jean Bodin in the Demonology, not to mention the works of Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Cervantes to which Bakhtin also draws attention. There is nothing unique about Rabelais with respect to the synthesizing effort and its variable accent, sometimes elite, sometimes specifically carnivalesque, and sometimes broadly popular.
But Bakhtin also analyzes Rabelais's work at a different level, less concerned with Carnival images and their aggregate importance in Rabelais or the Renaissance. This analytic level deals with the philosophic implications of images of banqueting, of praise and abuse in the marketplace, of birth, death, copulation, defecation, dismemberment, and so on. Bakhtin shows that the aggressiveness and "cruelty" of folk-cultural and popular-cultural humor, its "grotesque realism," its temporal principle of cyclic birth and rebirth, its spatial principle of reversal and inversion, its organic principle of incompleteness and "unfinished" bodiliness, have greater philosophic breadth and more mutual coherence than anyone suspected. Bakhtin asserts that these principles lying behind Rabelais's images were folkloric from time immemorial, but the evidence he cites in support of this view is nearly all literate and highly discontinuous. What derives from what, and where and how it did so, is not pursued.
If one leaves aside the historicization of these principles and their one-sided attribution to the "people," however, one finds a very new way of understanding Rabelais in particular, a way closer to Foucault's
perception of the logic implied by a texts ideas and expressions than to the nineteenth-century Romantic-Hegelian historicism that overlays Bakhtin's writing like a patina. Rabelais's authorial individuality, on Bakhtin's reading, consists in his philosophic deepening of folkloric principles left inchoate and implicit by other writers, as of course they were also left inchoate and implicit by those who acted upon them in the town square, at the market, on saints' days, in battle camps, and indeed wherever men and women mixed and shared their everyday sense of life in public or private.
The salient characteristic of this everyday folkloric sense of life is the absence of any commanding criterion of truth. Truth is irrelevant. This is so for Rabelais as well. Rabelais begins his books by upsetting the sovereign throne of truth in books, the prefatory meeting place between author and reader, and situating instead false authors and false readers in false marketplaces, manor houses, churches, and taverns.
Rabelais's images are often but not always folkloric. Rabelais's "systems of images" are similarly varied in their logical implications, sometimes folkloric and sometimes not. Whether future interpreters of Rabelais agree with Bakhtin's idea of the predominantly folkloric character of both the images and their system, they will in any case have to deal with both levels that the Russian critic has discerned. Bakhtin has shown that the logic of folklore is as richly productive of verbal virtuosity as the art of the rhétoriqueurs, Platonic philosophy, Lucianic storytelling, or Erasmian wise foolishness. It is no longer possible after Bakhtin's metatextual discovery to treat Rabelais's "low," popular aspects as incidental decor to an essentially elite masterpiece.
Not carnivalism but communalism, conviviality, and subterfuge: Rabelais depicts the varied and sometimes hostile, sometimes masked encounter of heterogeneous communities and heterogeneous ideologies, not their amalgamation in a universally valid synthesis, low or high, popular or elite. He does not construct an "image of the triumph of mankind." He uses the "horizontal line of time and space" to show the problematic qualities of any and every pretense to triumphal hegemony. By means of the rarely carnivalesque and not always folkloric principles to which Bakhtin draws attention, Rabelais draws into connection and clash within the humanized arena of a fiction many realms that are usually kept ontologically separate. Allegorical figures like Quaresmeprenant and the Sausages or Nature and Anti-Nature are placed on the same level as the Pantagruelians, and the Pantagruelians, by means of Alcofribas, are placed on the same level as you and us, readers and narrators-authors. Quaresmeprenant and the Sausages belong to the popular-cultural world of orally and gesturally transmitted proverbial and festive practices that took form in the Middle Ages; Nature and Anti-Nature belong to the humanistically transmitted lore of literate antiquity; the verbal and bodily behavior of the Pantagruelians identifies them as enlightened representatives of the sixteenth-century Christian-feudal world. Beyond these levels Rabelais's fiction also makes room within the same humanized arena for the pre-Christian gods who hold comic counsel about their fate due to the discovery of Pantagruelion, for the place where the dead are lodged after their disappearance from this world, and for the arcane space within a giant's mouth, no less than for Asclepius falling off a staircase, misanthropic Diogenes, the butchers of Cande, King Henry II, Cardinal Odet, and the sly narrator-author himself.
Rabelais's communalism is broad-gauged, but not all-embracing. His construction integrates much of what was seen as hell in the Christian Middle Ages and as heaven in Greco-Roman antiquity; but Chris-
tian heaven remains securely in place beyond the fixed sphere of the stars with its revolving constellations, so that it acts as a kind of limit to what can be given narrative form. The Creator and the Savior can be referred to metaphorically, in the guise of an ancient god, like Pan. But they cannot be incorporated into the action. In spite of this limit, the extraordinarily widened world of the Rabelaisian text disrupts, as Bakhtin insists, any vertically integrated understanding of reality, in which the human world could be lodged securely below heaven and above hell. Fiction, allegory, and history, French place names and Utopian geography, nautical accuracy and nautical fantasy, authentic and imaginary written sources of ancient and medieval lore, like the impossibly intimate communication between author and readers, disrupt by their varying levels of concreteness and abstraction every pretension to stable meaning.
Nature and humanity have no fixed forms. The world has no fixable frontiers except for that at the end of the stars. Rabelais's organicist and spiritualist premises conjugate polemically with elements, which from official and elite points of view — Christian or feudal, ancient pagan or modern bourgeois — are "below." In Rabelais the natural world, the material world, the world of work and of craftsmanlike prowess, the "lower bodily stratum" of sex and death and excrement and fecundity, are in fertile, cyclic contact with nearly all that is "above," so that the interplay (I emphasize play ) throws meaning and morals ever and again into disarray, prohibiting the consolidation of different interpretive levels.
Bakhtin's exaltation of Rabelais as the leader of the Renaissance chorus of subversively laughing people is misleading in its overtones: Rabelais's effort at totalism was ultimately cultural more than social, and it was limited by a supernaturalism implicit in the instruments upon which he relied for synthesis, organicism and spiritualism. But in terms of Bakhtin's strategy toward both his immediate public, the audience of state censors without whose imprimatur his book would be in danger, and toward his remoter, larger public of twentieth-century students of cultural history, emphasis on the carnivalesque side of Rabelais's
energies was astute. It explains the text in a manner that perfectly suits our divisive, mass-cultural context — our context, not Rabelais's. In Rabelais's context there were only partitive communities and emergent individuals, only mixed Carnivals, jointly invented by elite and popular groups, and only Carnival-Lent traditions in flux: no totality, no triumphal humanity, no triumphal Church, either, or at least none in visible, living, organic form; not even a Nature sovereign enough to hold Anti-Nature in check.
Knowingly or unknowingly, Bakhtin adopted something of what I have called Rabelais's late-developed encouragement of oblique readings of text. Seemingly devoted to examining Rabelais's adherence to an ideological program of commitment to the people, his text in fact inculcates a sense of Rabelais's semiotic mode of developing textuality: the systemization of images, not the representation of Rabelais's populist orthodoxy, is Bakhtin's secret theme. Linearly read, Bakhtin's book idealizes and so falsifies its ostensible object, the Rabelaisian text/context. Obliquely read, Bakhtin's book shows that his subtext, the theory that Rabelais wrote easily in the popular vein because he used systems, not single folkloric images and themes, has in its turn a subversive corollary. Bakhtin's ideas are formalist and structuralist no less than socialist in their premises. But he could neither proclaim that publicly nor perhaps think out the meaning of that privately in the land of socialist realism any more than Rabelais could explain or think through his naturalist supernaturalism in a century of state and church inquisitions. Criticism, like literature, may in such conditions have recourse to special strategies for dealing with the danger of cultural submission to
social ends. From Rabelais's time to Bakhtin's, one strategy has been fiction's capacity — and hence also criticism's capacity, in dealing with such fiction — for bewilderingly recursive communication (who is the author? where is the reader?) and bitingly ambivalent polysemy (how does a text refer, coordinate, mean?).
Bakhtin's methodological insistence that fictions be read not only page by page and symbol by symbol but also as coherent wholes, and his discovery that the Rabelaisian text can be perceived, when so read, as a series of image systems, is not demonstrated point for point in his book. The argument is loosely woven, its documentation sporadic. For that reason perhaps it is all the more suggestive. I have used Bakhtin's idea of image systems in various ways here, without referring to it as such. One way is to use it as an informal means of testing Rabelais's texts for the presence of countertext. A series of images, it seems to me, requires at least three components to constitute a system. Can I find a recurrence of at least three linked meaning-clusters or "images" ironically propounded, first in the 1548 prologue and later in the supposedly straightforward text of the dedicatory letter? I think I have.
Another way to use it is more constructively heuristic. Suppose that the commonplace symbolic series, sausage is like penis is like woman, can be established as occurring in Rabelais's text. So what? If this is truly an image system, then it should have the three aspects that words regularly display. What corresponds on the levels of thought pattern and referent pattern to the series of symbols or, linguistic vehicles? Sausages gratify male bodily desire as the penis gratifies male bodily pride and women gratify men's bodily pleasure. This psychophysical thought pattern is found in a number of different Rabelaisian passages, and in turn it corresponds to a related series of socially oriented propositions, a recurrent pattern referring to the way society is perceived to function: the pride of possessing the penis is socially displayed in the assumptions of patriarchy (hierarchical power over sexual relations is equivalent to hierarchical power over social relations); women's subordination to male pleasure is socially displayed by their subordination in marriage; and sausages' desirability is socially displayed as male-female familial fecundity, as pretty, fatty, wriggly, babylike bodiliness. The referent pattern seems to be displayed in the social arrangements (and absences) on Ferocious Island; phallocentrism and patriarchy emerge as consistent subtexts.
Bakhtin's emphasis on the word "image" is well chosen. What makes the systems something more than dismayingly repetitive commonplaces, however interesting their connections, is the aesthetic power of the linguistic vehicles. What matters most is Rabelais's ability to give his meanings imaginative embodiment.
The Rabelaisian metatext has changed twice: first in consonance with individualistic society and culture and its emphasis on exploring personality, and second in harmony with mass society and culture and its emphasis on exploring the ironic countereffects and inversions of individual aspiration. This book lives in and by means of the second context. Pluralism, psychologism, nostalgia for a communal age inspire in no small measure the metatext which you well-wishing readers hold in your hands.
I have defended Bakhtin's subtext and countertext as a way of explaining the excesses of his book's surface. Bakhtin's explanation of the way "folkloric" principles function systematically to relate images previously understood as trivial and unconnected is fundamental. He has changed our sense of how to investigate the text/context connection. We must widen our investigations of sixteenth-century popular life, as previous generations widened our awareness of Rabelais's learned sources.
The investigation of Rabelais's Carnival, which began in Parts One and Two from a Bakhtin-inspired concept of the texts context, led from reconstruction of sixteenth-century Carnival-Lent customs to quite another kind of research in the second half of this book. It is one thing to suggest that Quaresmeprenant, the physeter, the Sausages, the flying pig, and the Pantagruelian warriors may be seen as a puppetlike parade of Carnival excesses, on the model of traditional Carnival-Lent combats on mardi gras. It is another matter to prove that such a model of the episode in the Fourth Book is more adequate textually and contextually than these chapters' usual interpretation as three separate episodes in which the first supposedly deals rather clearly with Lenten excess.
Text/context thus led not merely to the history of metatext but to a theory of how metatexts evolve. It led to reconstruction of both the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century misconception of the passage and also the reasons for twentieth-century conservation of the misconception, long after Rabelais's satiric, anticlerical, and supposedly "Protestant" proclivities had been reconsidered. As long as the
sixteenth-century nonliterary context of Rabelais's writing is considered irrelevant, "intertextual" reading of these chapters will be inclined to interpret Quaresmeprenant as an ambiguous idea of Lent rather than ambivalent figure of Carnival. Reading Quaresmeprenant as Quaresme is more generally consonant with the twentieth-century's remoteness and impatience with issues of Christian ritual; it is simpler to read "directly" from the text.
To escape this impasse — after all, does not each epoch have a right, perhaps even an obligation, to generate its own version of a classic text? — required a third circle of investigations. In this circle I used semiotic: and structural distinctions. By their means the current critical fashion of treating Rabelais's text as linguistically rather than folklorically carnivalesque — that is, as an extreme "carnivalism," or as a kind of infinitely playful intertextuality — was related to the ideological sources of Bakhtin's metatext. Implicit in the analysis of Bakhtin's spiritous, organic "materialism" is the trace of a similar but unperformed analysis of intertextuality as an antispiritual, mechanistically articulated science of interpretation. For different but equally cogent reasons, historicizing organicism and mechanistic science both suit our age.
A text acts upon readers because it comes to them attached to their apprehension of the contexts interacting with it. Readers' apprehension of the text/context connection grows as awareness of the author's "sources" grows, that is, as readers immerse themselves in the scholarship displayed in metatext. But this aid is a snare. At any given time metatext, the tradition of interpreting a text, is for readers who are coming to the text for the first time a part of the texts context. The difference of metatextual acumen from that of the original author and that of the new readers becomes apparent only insofar as new readers, having pursued enough metatextual history to allow them to disentangle that history from the author's context, map for themselves the horizon and then the intervening space that have led them here and now to read.