La poésie oraculaire de Nostradamus : Langue, style et genre des Centuries
This dissertation is a study of the work of Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus). Born in Provence, France in 1503, this true "Renaissance man” (astrologer, doctor of medicine and translator) achieved fame with the publication of his Centuries or “Prophecies”. This work presents 10 centuries of quatrains – almost a thousand short poems of only four rhymed lines each. The first third was published in 1555, another third in 1557 and finally the ten Centuries all together, posthumously, in 1568. The present study concentrates on the first edition, consisting of the first 353 quatrains.The main purpose of this thesis is to explore and analyse the language, the style and the genre of the Centuries, aspects rather neglected by the critics hitherto. The large number of quatrains analysed in detail provides a solid basis for accurately characterizing the distinctive features of the text. The methods applied are mainly quantitative and comparative.Initially, a short presentation of Nostradamus’ life and work sketches in the background for the creation of the Centuries. The analysis of the poetic form illustrates the stylistic as well as linguistic consequences of the use of the quatrain: it is argued that the poetical structure of the text influences its language as well as its oracular genre. The language of the Centuries is quantitatively examined, first at the sentence level and then at the phrase level. In order to define its specific nature, comparisons are made with the language of other texts from the same period, i.e. the Délie by Maurice Scève and the Pantagrueline Pronostication by François Rabelais. The results demonstrate that the most prominent differences concern what may be referred to as Nostradamus’ strategy of omission, where the restrictive metrical form of the quatrain demands that he be sparing of words.Thereafter, the dissertation concludes that the number of textual themes and motives of the Centuries is quite limited (war, catastrophe, government), the prodigy being identified as the general poetic topic that contributes to the coherence of the text. A subsequent section thoroughly investigates stylistic elements such as enumeration, repetition and onomastics. The objective of the final section is to define the genre of the Centuries. The close connection between the concepts of poetry and prophecy during the French Renaissance is well documented. It is thus suggested that the enigmatic, dark oeuvre of Nostradamus inspired several of the Pléiade poets, whose group that in many ways explored the oracular genre in the 1550s and 1560s. It is furthermore demonstrated that the concept of oracular poetry is appropriate for defining the style and the genre of the Centuries.Together, the different results of our survey lead to a discussion of the poetic qualities of the Centuries. The present study promotes the conclusion that Nostradamus is to be considered much less a prophet than an author of oracular poetry.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Languages and linguistics; Romance languages; French language; Nostradamus; Centuries; style; language; genre; oracular poetry; quatrain; French; Renaissance; linguistic and thematic studies; onomastics; melancholy.
Date of Publication:01/01/2005