New French and Italian Books Explore Murder, Schéhérazade, and Secrecy
By ANDREA ESTRADA
Three faculty members in the Department of French and Italian have published new books ranging in subject from deadly medieval theater to Scheherazade’s Lovers to the culture of secrecy in early modern Europe.
In “Murder By Accident: Theater, Medievalism, and Critical Intentions” (University of Chicago Press, 2009), Jody Enders, professor of French and Theater, explores the concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater. Drawing on a group of medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, Enders suggests that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse mirrors the marginalization — and misunderstanding — of theater. “Murder By Accident” revisits the legal, moral, ethical, and aesthetic limits of the living arts of the past, and pairs them with examples from the present.
In “Les Amoureuz de Schéhérazade: Variations Modernes Sur les Mille et Une Nuits” (Droz, 2009), which translates to “Scheherazade’s Lovers: Modern Variations on the Thousand and One Nights,” Dominique Jullien, professor of French and comparative literature, explores modern rewritings of the tales of the “One Thousand and One Nights.” Focusing on the French-language tradition while also placing her study within a larger context, she identifies four dominant interpretative readings, which provide the book’s four chapters: political, aesthetic, feminist, and introspective.
In “Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe” (University of California Press, 2009), Jon R. Snyder, professor of Italian Studies and comparative literature and chair of the Department of French and Italian and of the Consortium on Literature, crisscrosses Europe, with a special focus on Italy, to explore attitudes toward the art of dissimulation — the deliberate disguising or silencing of one’s most intimate thoughts and emotions.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, many early modern Europeans — princes, courtiers, aristocrats, and commoners alike — chose to practice the shadowy art of dissimulation. For men and women who could not risk revealing their inner lives to those around them, this art of incommunicativity was crucial, both personally and politically.
Many writers and intellectuals sought to explain, expose, justify, or condemn the emergence of this new culture of secrecy, and from Naples to the Netherlands, controversy swirled for two centuries around the powers and limits of dissimulation, whether in affairs of state or affairs of the heart.