Novelty, Disinformation and Discrimination in Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron (1559) and Sixteenth-Century French News Culture

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Abstract

This chapter explores the intersection between two different kinds of nouvelle: on the one hand, a piece of news; and on the other, a literary genre, the novella. Both senses were current in the early sixteenth century when Marguerite de Navarre, the sister of the French king François I, wrote the collection of novellas now known as the Heptameron. Developing its model, Boccaccio’s Decameron, the Heptameron includes an elaborate frame narrative in which the storytellers debate each story after they hear it. From these discussions, and the stories themselves, emerges a concern with the underlying principles of storytelling: truth, authority, witness and interpretation. These are concerns, this chapter argues, that were also current in sixteenth-century news culture, and in particular the short sensational news pamphlets that became popular during the religious wars of the second half of the century. The chapter examines the claims made in both the Heptameron and in news publications and argues that the Heptameron aspires to provide the analytical tools required to assess any account that claims to be truthful; an aspiration that anticipates later critiques of sensationalist and partisan news. It does this through a practice of discrimination, a careful parsing of a story and its underlying motivations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-200
JournalPast and Present
Volume257
Early online date31 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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