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Fumaroli, Marc 1932-

FUMAROLI, Marc 1932-


Born June 10, 1932 in Marseilles, France.


Home—11 rue de l'Université 75007 Paris, France. Office—Collège de France, 52 Rue due H.E. Cardinal Lemoine, 75231 Paris cedex 05, France.


Writer, educator, and professor of rhetoric. Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1976; Collège de France, Titular professor, chair of rhetoric and European society of 16th and 17th centuries, 1986—; University of Chicago, professor, 1996—. Commentaire, editor-in-chief, 1978—. XVIIe Siècle (journal), director, 1981-1986; member of advisory council, Bibliohèque Nationale, 1988-92; Society of Friends of the Louvre, president, 1996; Academy Française, member, 1995; High Committee of National Celebrations, member, 1998—.


Chevalier Légion d'honneur, des Palmes académiques; Officer ordre national du Mérit; Commander, des Artes et des Lettres.


(Editor) Mémoires de Henri De Campion, Suivis de Trois Entretiens Sur Divers Subjects d'Histoire, de Politique, et de Morale, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1967.

(Editor) L'Illusion comique, comédie, Larousse (Paris, France), 1970.

A Rebours/J.-K Huysmans, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1977.

L'Age de l'éloquence: rhé et "res literaria," de la Renaissance au seuil de l'époque classique, Champion (Paris, France), 1980.

(Editor) Le Statut de la littérature: Mélanges offerts á Paul Bénichou, Droz (Geneva, Switzerland), 1982.

(With Marianne Grivel) Devises pour les Tapisseries du Roi, Herscher (Paris, France), 1988.

L'inspiration du poéte de Poussin: Essai sur Lallégorie du Parnasse, Ministére de la culture, de la communication, des grands travaux et du Bicentenaire (Paris, France), 1989.

Eroi e Oratori: Retorica e Drammaturgia Secentesche, Il Mulino (Bologna, Italy), 1990.

(With Noemi Hep, Bernard Tocanne, and Roger Zuber) Précis de Littérature Française du XVII siécle, PUF (Paris, France), 1990.

Héroes et Orateurs: Rhétorique et Dramatureis Cornéliennes, Droz (Geneva, Switzerland), 1990.

L'Etat Culturel: Une Religion Moderne, Editions de Fallois (Paris, France), 1991.

Le Genre des Genres Littéraires Français: La Conversation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Res Libraria, Edizioni dell'elefante (Rome, Italy), 1994.

La diplomatie de l'esprit: de Montaigne á La Fontaine, Hermann (Paris, France), 1994.

L'école du Silence: le Sentiment des Images au XVIIe Siécle, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1994.

(With Tzvetan todorov) Mélanges sur l'oeuvre de Paul Bénichou Gallimard (Paris, France), 1995.

Le Poéte et le Roi: Jean de la Fontaine en son Siécle, Editions de Fallois (Paris, France), 1997, published as The Poet and the King: Jean de La Fontaine and His Century, translated by Jane Marie Todd, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2002.

Rome dans la Méoire et l'Imagination de l'Europe: Celebrazione sul Campidoglio del Cinquantesimo Anniversario Della Fondazione dell'Unione, Unione Internazionale degli istituti di archeologia, storia et storia dell'arte in Roma (Rome, Italy), 1997.

Vie de Napoléon, Editions de Fallois (Paris, France), 1999.

Rorme et Paris: Capitales de la République Européenne des Lettres, preface by Volker Kapp, afterword by Giovanni Pozzi, LIT (Hamburg, Germany), 1999.

Nicolas Poussin: Sainte Françoise Romaine Annonçant á Rome la fin de la Peste, Réunion des musée nationaux: Louvre, Service culturel (Paris, France), 2001.

Quand l'Europe Parlait Français, Fallois (Paris, France), 2001.

Chateaubriand: Poésie et Terreur, Fallois (Paris, France), 2003.

La Mythologie Gré-Latine à Travers 100 Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Peinture, Presses de la Renaissance (Paris, France), 2004.

Contributor of numerous articles to scholarly publications and journals, including New Republic and Diogenes.


Writer and professor Marc Fumaroli is a prolific author of widely praised works on French political, intellectual, and cultural history. A career academic, Fumaroli is professor of rhetoric and society in Europe at the Collége de France.

In L'Age de l'éloquence: rhé et "res literaria," de la Renaissance au seuil de l'époque classique, Fumaroli presents a richly detailed study of the history of rhetoric in Europe. The 1980 book "is modestly described in the preamble as a contribution to the history of rhetoric in modern Europe," wrote Peter France in Modern Language Review. "It is in fact easily the most significant contribution to date to the history of French rhetoric, but it is far more than this." In addition to in-depth discussion of rhetorical theory, Fumaroli also provides scholarly insight into "the practice of eloquence," France wrote, and the history of French prose in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Because of its focus on rhetoric, the book can also be considered "a major contribution to the history of mentalities and indeed to the history of society," France remarked. "By means of a tour de force of organization, the author has ensured that the vast store of erudition on which he has drawn is properly subordinated to a powerful central thesis," wrote Terence Cave in Times Literary Supplement.

Beginning with a study of Cicero as an exemplary figure, the book examines early forms of rhetoric and their interplay. "Cicero represented different things at different times and to different people," France observed. Fumaroli explores Cicero's changing context. Cicero, France commented, "appears here above all as the figure of the urbane, yet serious middle way which will eventually be that of French classicism." The first part of the book "is a history of the ciceronian ideal of eloquence," Cave observed. "Fumaroli is not concerned with the technical detail of rhetorical pedagogy," Cave remarked, but is instead concerned with "the history of an idea, of the institutions which promoted it, and of the individuals who gave it expression." The remaining portions of the book provide detailed and subtle analysis of the "the opposing rhetorical traditions of the Society of Jesus and the Gallican parlementaires," France wrote. "The three strands of Fumaroli's book thus converge at a key moment in the history of French culture," Cave noted, specifically in the time of Richelieu and his strict central control, during the flourishing of the French court, during the conflict between the rhetorical styles of France and Rome, and "above all between neo-Latin humanism and vernacular belles-lettres," Cave observed.

Although the book "is a heavy one and takes time to read," France remarked, "no specialist should grudge the time taken to read a work of this importance." Fumaroli's book "stands alone in its range and synthetic power," commented Cave in another Times Literary Supplement review. Fumaroli "shows enormous still in attaching the endless permutations of broad conceptual categories," such as ciceronianism, "the sublime," and related intellectual abstractions "to verifiable historical evidence and thus in giving them a local precision." Cave also called the book an "outstanding successor" to other works in the field, and named it "compulsory reading" for persons interested in French culture, literature, and rhetoric.

Fumaroli's Héroes et Orateurs: Rhétorique et Dramatureis Cornéliennes contains "a rich and often fascinating gathering of pieces" and essays that "express a distinctive vision of seventeenth-century French culture," Peter France wrote in French Studies. In Précis de Littérature Française du XVII siécle, Fumaroli "provides a dazzling panorama of the century's early years, frequently quoting from inaccessible but consistently apt and illuminating texts," wrote Peter Bayley in French Studies. With Quand l'Europe Parlait Français, Fumaroli offers a collection of essays on the use of French as the language of the elite; the history, cultural meaning, and linguistic virtues of French; and the erosion of the French language in the face of increased use of English. "Fumaroli's stimulating and elegant preface to this book is an extended essay on the circumstances that led to the supremacy of the French language throughout Europe and beyond in the eighteenth century," wrote John Rogister in Times Literary Supplement. It also examines the use of French by foreigners who adopted French as their main language during the eighteenth century. In terms of the current battle for the purity of the language, "Fumaroli does not give way to pessimism," Rogister observed. "In his view, anyone who wants to escape from conformity or from the age of mass communication need only to resort to French of the old school."

Fumaroli argues in favor of humanistic culture for its own sake in L'Etat Culturel: Une Religion Moderne. "The argument of Marc Fumaroli's elegant book, L'Etat Culturel, is plain and deeply felt," wrote Patrice Higonnet in Times Literary Supplement. "Humanistic culture is the highest kind of self-expression," Higonnet wrote, and "it is an end in itself," available to all through the virtue of liberal education "which empowers all men and women regardless of their social rank. Different human beings will seek transcendence in different ways," Higonnet observed, "but their answers—provided they are reflective and sincere—will all have universal resonance." France, according to Fumaroli, exemplified the pinnacle of this type of culture of self-expression.

"In the past few decades, however, a cancer, as Fumaroli sees it, has steadily been eating away at French and Parisian culture," Higonnet remarked. "In the place of dialogue and confrontation, instead of enlightened discourse, the French have been substituting the false values of l'Etat culturel." Empty concepts, pretentious attitudes, facile behaviors, and remnants of American counterculture have been wrongfully offered to the French "as the essence of modern [French] culture," Higonnet wrote. Fumaroli criticizes the new French National Library, the work of French universities, national politics, and the actions of the state in his quest to reinvigorate culture in France and Paris. L'Etat Culturel is an "important book," Higonnet wrote. To some, Fumaroli will appear as "a learned curmudgeon, disillusioned by modern life," while others will see him more sympathetically as "a wise but confirmed pessimist," Higonnet observed. To Fumaroli, systematic dismantling of the "l'Etat culturel" will allow "new and vital cultural forms" to be born out of the wreckage, reinvigorating French culture and allowing a new generation of cultivated residents to emerge.

Fumaroli turns his attention to art in Nicolas Poussin: Sainte Françoise Romaine Annonçant á Rome la fin de la Peste. Fumaroli provides an in-depth analysis of the Poussin's painting, Sainte Françoise Romaine, upon its acquisition and exhibition by the Louvre. "No more appropriate an author could have been found," Charles Dempsey wrote in Burlington Magazine, "and Fumaroli has responded with an invaluable analysis of the painting and its full artistic, cultural, religious, and historical context." Of particular note and "Especially satisfying," Dempsey commented, "is Fumaroli's sure-footed treatment of the sequence of visual metaphors deployed by Poussin in the background of the painting."

With The Poet and the King: Jean de La Fontaine and His Century, Fumaroli "has written the finest and most perceptive of all the innumerable accounts of La Fontaine," wrote Charles Rosen in New York Review of Books. Jean de La Fontaine is regarded by Fumaroli and others to be the greatest French lyric poet of the seventeenth century, Rosen observed, and the book presents an in-depth study of the poet and the political and cultural environment he lived in, placing La Fontaine within "the intellectual context of his time," wrote Maya Slater in French Studies.

La Fontaine had hoped for a prosperous period of royal patronage under the auspices of superintendent of finances, Nicolas Fouquet. A "popular and impressive figure," Fouquet had successfully negotiated peace among factions that had risen up against the brutal and absolutist policies of the infamous Cardinal Richelieu, Rosen wrote. Fouquet was a patron of the arts on a grand scale, and La Fontaine had every reason to believe that such patronage would continue. However, shortly after a luxurious party given by Fouquet for the entire French court, Fouquet was ordered arrested by King Louis XIV and charged with treason and embezzlement. "There is no question that Fouquet's wealth had been acquired by methods that were strictly criminal; these methods were also widespread, commonplace, and expected," Rosen observed. "The arrest of Fouquet was a disaster" for La Fontaine, Rosen remarked. "He had been protected and generously supported by the superintendent, and he remained loyal to him for decades, helping in his defense, and writing with considerable eloquence a plea for a pardon or more generous treatment."

La Fontaine's support for Fouquet put him at odds with Louis XIV, and he continually risked ruination at the whim of the king. Other poets, writers, artists, and creative sorts of the time suffered as well. "Marc Fumaroli shows how the fall of Fouquet destroyed the hopes of a generation of creative artists who had anticipated a golden age of patronage under the enlightened minister," wrote Maya Slater in Times Literary Supplement. Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, called The Poet and the King an "engrossing account of the struggles of a creative man against a smothering tyranny." The book "is almost as much about Louis XIV as about La Fontaine: the absolutist politics and the consequent attempt to enforce an official style by the King and his ministers are continuously present throughout the book," Rosen remarked. "Fumaroli's distaste for the King is as evident as his remarkable admiration of the poet, and he treats Louis XIV with unmitigated Ferocity." Slater observed that "Fumaroli's approach to La Fontaine is always perceptive and convincing," and Rosen concluded that "Fumaroli's study is a meditation on the plight of the artist under such a ruler [as Louis XIV] during the imposition of an absolutist, centralized political regime."



American Historical Review, October, 2003, Michael Moriarty, review of The Poet and the King: Jean de La Fontaine and His Century, pp. 1224-1225.

Booklist, May 1, 2002, Jay Freeman, review of The Poet and the King, p. 1499.

Burlington Magazine, January, 2002, Charles Dempsey, review of Nicolas Poussin: Sainte Françoise Romaine Annonçant á Rome la fin de la Peste, pp. 31-33.

Choice, January, 2003, C. E. Campbell, review of The Poet and the King, p. 831.

English Historical Review, February, 2004, Roger Mettam, review of The Poet and the King, p. 213.

French Review, October, 1980, Jacques Barchilon, review of Précis de Littérature Française du XVII siécle, p. 160; May, 1983, Henri Peyre, review of Le Statut de la littérature: Mélanges offerts á Paul Bénichou, pp. 935-936.

French Studies, July, 1991, Peter France, review of Héroes et Orateurs: Rhétorique et Dramatureis Cornéliennes, pp. 318-319; July, 1992, Peter Bayley, review of Précis de Littérature Française du XVII siécle, pp. 327-330; April, 1998, Maya Slater, review of Le Poéte et le Roi; Jean de La Fontaine en son siécle, p. 202.

Historical Journal, March, 1995, Peter N. Miller, review of Héroes et Orateurs: Rhétorique et Dramatureis Cornéliennes, pp. 161-173.

Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Scott Hightower, review of The Poet and the King, p. 147.

London Review of Books, March 23, 1995, Malcolm Bull, review of L'école du Silence: le Sentiment des Images au XVIIe Siécle, pp. 31-32.

Modern Language Review, January, 1982, Peter France, review of L'Age de l'éloquence: rhé et "res literaria," de la Renaissance au seuil de l'époque classique, pp. 203-205.

New York Review of Books, December 18, 1997, Charles Rosen, "The Fabulous La Fontaine," review of Le Poéte et le Roi; Jean de La Fontaine en son siécle, pp. 38-39.

Times Literary Supplement, February 27, 1981, Terence Cave, "The Ciceronian Ideal," review of L'Age de l'éloquence: rhé et "res literaria," de la Renaissance au seuil de l'époque classique, p. 236; February 14, 1992, Patrice Higonnet, review of L'Etat Culturel: Une Religion Moderne, pp. 3-4; October 28, 1994, Terence Cave, review of La diplomatie de l'esprit: de Montaigne á La Fontaine, p. 26; October 28, 1994, Terence Cave, review of L'Age de l'éloquence: rhé et "res literaria," de la Renaissance au seuil de l'époque classique, p. 26; May 3, 1996, Malcolm Bowie, review of Le Statut de la littérature: Mélanges offerts á Paul Bénichou, p. 6; April 25, 1997, Peter France, review of Le Poéte et le Roi; Jean de La Fontaine en son siécle, p. 12; October 25, 2002, Maya Slater, review of The Poet and the King: Jean de La Fontaine and His Century, p. 30; May 3, 2002, John Rogister, review of Quand l'Europe Parlait Français, p. 8.


University of Notre Dame Press Web site, (July 2, 2003), description of The Poet and the King. *

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