Les "Mémoires" du duc de La Rochefoucauld : autobiographie et tradition héroïque

Abstract : La Rochefoucauld's memoires belong to a category of memoires d epee dating back to the work of Commynes. As is true for most works belonging to this tradition, the duke s memoires are both an adroit apologetics, designed to contradict the official version of historical events, and a subtle indictment of the tragic destiny which befell the public man. In fact, the autobiographical intent can be attributed to the requirements of the genre, and this within the limits that the memorialist imposed upon himself. In other words, the fundamental project, reliving and recounting one’s own life, relates above all to the teleology of an ideal character firmly grounded in the history of his time. The truth of the memorialist correspond to a conception whereby the true lie is the basis of retelling, and whereby values are those of a typically aristocratic mind: duty, love and glory. We see in the various images of his being exposed in action a tendency towards ostentation. Pages written in the first person are in this respect much more personal, while at the same time restricting themselves to a conventional representation of the heroic self, as we perceive it in, for example, precious novels and short stories. Pages dominated by narrative history and composed in the third person, the “res gestae” of Francois VI, are woven together with history proper and its characters, but at the same time contain a discourse evoking a mythical existence. The literary consciousness and the culture of la Rochefoucauld, the formal dignity and affectation of discretion that we feel in his style, suggest that the text has not been conceived as a conventional history. The influence of Julius Caesar, of Tacitus, of Sallustus and even of Machiavelli is key to the understanding of the historical perspective of the memoires, and strongly suggests a literary esthetics: the art of persuasion becomes the means of making the hero of yesterday and today come to life in the mind of the reader.
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Denis Combet. Les "Mémoires" du duc de La Rochefoucauld : autobiographie et tradition héroïque. Littératures. Université Nancy 2, 1999. Français. ⟨NNT : 1999NAN21005⟩. ⟨tel-01776335⟩

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