Professor Olga Anna Duhl

Prof. Olga Anna Duhl

Prof. Olga Anna Duhl, Oliver E. Williams Professor of Languages

The Poetics of Drama and the Drama of Poetics: Questions of the Subject in Theater, From the Rhétoriqueurs to Marguerite de Navarre,* published by Classiques Garnier Multimedia

Released Oct. 18, 2023

*Translated from original French title: Poétique du drame, drame du poétique: enjeux du sujet dans le théâtre, des rhétoriqueurs à Marguerite de Navarre

The Poetics of Drama and the Drama of Poetics, a summary: 

This is the first monograph devoted to the literary representations and ideological functions of the “subject” in a significant corpus of French religious and secular plays composed between 1450 and 1550 by a group of notable professional poets known as the Rhétoriqueurs. Most prominent among them, Jean Molinet (1435-1507), André de La Vigne (1478-c. 1526), Pierre Gringore (1478-1538), and Jean Bouchet (1476-c.1557), occupied official positions at royal, ducal, and ecclesiastical courts. Charged to advance their patrons’ political agenda during major historical events, such as the Burgundian (1474-1477) and the Italian wars (1494-1559), they authored chronicles, panegyrics, and other encomiastic works, while also distinguishing themselves as prolific playwrights. Despite the strong focus that they placed on glorifying their patrons, however, the Rhétoriqueurs infused their writings with identity markers, which they blended into equivocal rhymes, acrostics, and dramatic masks, consciously promoting their own authorial personae as crucial players in shaping the history of the courts that they served. The dramatic voices of the prominent woman writer Marguerite de Navarre, sister to King Francis I, are included in the study as compelling female counterparts of the Rhétoriqueurs’ personae.

In this book, Duhl argues that the Rhétoriqueurs, and following in their footsteps, Marguerite de Navarre, recreated the medieval “subject” from the combined perspectives of performance, poetry, and affectivity, offering new insight into their perceptions of social, political, and religious tensions that developed between 1450 and 1550, including their own sensibilities. Thus conceived, the “subject” represents a groundbreaking critical model that bridges traditional boundaries, such as those that have conventionally separated the Middle Ages from the 16th-century Renaissance.

Cover of Prof. Olga Duhl's 2023 book, Poétique du drame

Poetique Du Drame, Drame Du Poetique: Published by Classiques Garnier Multimedia

Where is it available?

The book is available in hardcover and paperback editions, and it can be purchased on the Classiques Garnier website, or on major online retail sites such as Amazon and

Why did you write this book, and why should people at Lafayette and beyond read it?

This interdisciplinary monograph should be of interest to several scholarly fields: to literary historians as a new contribution to the ongoing debate surrounding the chronological divisions between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; to literary theorists, as a study of the continuity of performative culture and its role in the development of the “subject”; to theater specialists, as the first synthesis of the Rhétoriqueurs and Marguerite de Navarre’s poetic drama, and their impact on the formation of the French literary canon; to historians, as a document on the Rhétoriqueurs’ role in shaping French political discourse and, implicitly national identity; and to linguists, as a testimony to the Rhétoriqueurs’ impact on the development of French as an autonomous language that, by 1539, was ready to displace Latin.

In our age in which individualism, plagiarism, copyright, and more recently AI have taken the center stage, understanding the concept of subject and subjectivity is of crucial importance. My book makes an important contribution to this. 

How will this research impact your work and/or classroom at Lafayette?

I plan to incorporate several chapters into my courses devoted to the medieval, Renaissance, and the early modern period. My research on the making of the Marquis de Lafayette as a “hero of two worlds” is also closely tied into this endeavor.

Is there anything else we should know?

I am very proud that this is my second book published by Classiques Garnier. The first one was a critical edition of La Nef des folles that came out in 2013.

On Nov. 24, 2023, I delivered an invited lecture at the prestigious École nationale des chartes in Paris. Titled « Des Nefs des folles à l’Éloge de la Folie : perspectives transculturelles au tournant du XVIe siècle » (From The Ships of Foolish Maidens to the Praise of Folly: Transcultural Perspectives at the Turn of the 16th Century), it focused on the significant impact of La Nef des folles on the works of such well-known humanists as Erasmus. For more information, please visit the École nationale des chartes website.

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  1. Anne Schoysman says:

    Félicitations et merci pour ce beau livre: la question du sujet chez les rhétoriqueurs n’avait jamais été envisagée dans la perspective du théâtre. De nombreuses pistes sont ouvertes.

  2. Olga Anna Duhl says:

    Cher Bob,

    Un grand merci pour votre message qui me fait grand honneur.
    J’attends l’occasion de nouveaux échanges,
    bien amicalement,

  3. robert weiner says:

    Chere Anna, felicitations sur votre ouvrage importante; je suis tres fier d’etre votre colleague et ami; et tu me manques beaucoup; a tres bientot, bob

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