Diabolic Deeds: Transgression and Corporeality in the Histoires tragiques
Nelson, Laura Meador
This dissertation focuses on the representations of the human body in versions of the Histoires tragiques written between 1559 and 1648 by Pierre Boaistuau, François de Rosset, and Jean-Pierre Camus. Within the framework of these three authors this study examines the tales covering demonic possession, demonic pacts, bodily mutilation, and corpses that appear against the backdrop of early modern medical discoveries and decades of violence stemming from the religious wars. I analyze the results of sins as actualized on the human body and follow Michel Foucault’s theories on punishment, torture, and confinement to illustrate the locus of control unified in church and state, that while threatened by divisive factors, is mirrored and promoted in the Histoires tragiques. I outline the correspondence between the corporeal representations of the Histoires tragiques and the early modern medical, political, and religious evolution. The Histoires tragiques are violent and gory tales full of demons, bloodshed and torture. While the authors propose that the tales are written for moral edification, their grisly content is disturbingly fascinating and a precursor to the fantastique and horror literary genres. The common thread throughout all versions is a warning against the dangers of unbridled passion. In the tales, the body becomes a text of sorts, through which we can explore and examine the literary relationship with the times in which it was produced as it is marked, tortured, possessed, or dismembered.