French literary movements: The Pleiade.

French literary movements: The Pleiade.

The Pleiade is not strictly speaking a literary movement. It is a group of poets who aim to give French language its due respect. The name comes from the constellation of Taurus, which has six stars, but the Ancients counted seven. It still refers to the Pleiad of Alexandria, seven famous poets of the third century BCE under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, including Lycophron of Chalcis, Alexander of Etolia or Homer of Byzantium. The humanism of the Pleiade, through its reference to antiquity, is already apparent.

In the early 1550s, French writers and poets gathered in a collective called « the Brigade », then Ronsard imposed the term « Pleiade », apparently in 1553 or 1556. Seven of them have remained in the legend of this famous group: Baïf, Belleau, Du Bellay, Jodelle, Peletier du Mans, Pontus de Tyard, and Ronsard. They were heavily inspired by Boccaccio, Dante, or Petrarch’s desire to set a national language (Italian in the 14th century), to be inspired by the Ancients without imitating them, but reinventing them. This search for originality, to work towards establishing a learned and literary French language, is notably expressed in Du Bellay’s work in 1549, Defense and Illustration of the French Language. The Italian influence is decisive, especially that of Petrarch, inventor of the sonnet.

The Pleiade enriched the French vocabulary from Greek and Latin, embracing ancient poetic forms like the ode or epic and disregarding the medieval forms of ballad or rondeau. They aimed to create a prestigious language and literature by drawing on ancient humanism and the Italian Renaissance.

The literary techniques, rhetorical figures such as comparisons, metaphors, and allegories, proliferated. The elegance of the 16th century preceded the vain preciousness of the 17th. The word play, rhyme, and rhythm of a Marot was replaced by a quest for musicality, harmony, sensation, and images. The Pleiade  flourished at court, especially through the brilliant Ronsard, under Francois I, Henri II, Charles IX, and Henri III (1547 to 1589).

The alternation between masculine and feminine rhymes or the dominance of the Alexandrine over the decasyllable date from this time. It was also under the Pleiade  that the figure of the French poet was built, no longer with a vocation of word jester, but rather as an observer and drawer of emotions, feelings, and history for eternity. The Pléiade established the poet as a rare and superior being, a status that would influence French literature for several centuries.

The Pleiade  therefore presents itself as a literary school that advocates the primacy of French over Latin, of antiquity and the Italian Renaissance over the Middle Ages, and of the poet over the common people.

Links Another French literary movements: French literary movement: Classicism. French literary movement: Humanism. French literary movement: The Baroque. French literary movement : The enlightenment. French literary movement: Romanticism. French literary movement : The Surrealism movement.

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