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Richesse du proverbe


Richesse du proverbe, études réunies par François Suard et Claude Buridant. Vol. 1: Le Proverbe au Moyen Age; vol. 2: Typologie et fonctions. Lille: Université de Lille III, 1984, Pp. XIII, 162 and 275.

These two volumes make available to paremiologists communications presented at the Colloque de Parémiologie held at Lille, March 6-8, 1981. The first volume contains papers on medieval topics, the second includes papers not only on the typology and function of proverbs, but also on proverbs in the classical and modern world. (The two volumes are independent of each other and can be purchased separately.) Both volumes begin with an "Avant-Propos" by Buridant, in which he addresses the problem of the definition of the proverb. Buridant suggests the directions the subsequent articles follow the proverb as ethnologic source and the role of paroemia in discourse. He also invites readers to continue paremiological research, especially on precise problems and on the vitality of twentieth-century French proverbs.1 I summarize the articles in the order in which they appear in the two volums.

The first is Anne-Marie Bautier's "Peuples, provinces et villes dans la littérature proverbiale latine du Moyen Age" which is more list than analysis, though there is some useful examination of the oral transmission of proverbs. A second contribution by Claude Buridant, "Les Proverbes et la prédication au Moyen Age," is subtitled "De l'utilisation des proverbes vulgaires dans les sermons," and is an analysis of the sources of proverbs for authors of sermons, reflections on the coining of proverbs, the uses of proverbs in sermons, all as an illumination of the mentalité of the medieval preacher and his audience.

Juliette De Caluwé-Dor, in "Les Proverbes de Hendyng: Héroïsme païen, Charité chrétienne et Réalisme bourgeois," provides a brief introduction to the Middle English Proverbs of Hendyng, followed by a modern French translation of same. Pierre Demarolle's "Autour de la "Ballade des proverbes": Aspects logiques de la poésie de Françoise Villon," analyzes Villon's poem, placing emphasis on the importance of the intellectual environment for the poem to be understood by its audience. Jean-Claude Faucon's "La Sagesse populaire au service du roi: De l'utilisation des proverbes par un chroniqueur du XIVe siècle," is an analysis of proverbs in the verse chronicle by Cuvelier on the life of Bertrand du Guesclin where the use of proverbs reassures the audience, for whom proverbs are perceived as a sort of consolation--a fixed point in a world turned upside down by the Hundred Years' War.

Eric Hicks' "Proverbe et polémique dans le Roman de la Rose de Jean de Meun" shows the importance of proverbs in dialogue to cut short arguments or to elevate a speaker's estimation of himself. Antoinette Saly in "Les Proverbes dans le Meliacin de Girart d'Amiens: Aspect et fonction" sees proverbs as indicative of the temperament, taste and style of the author and his audience; more interesting is her discussion of latent proverbs, proverbs assimilated into the text, but whose source is still recognizable.

In "La Fonction des proverbes dans les chansons de geste des XIVe, et XVe siècles" François Suard speaks of the importance of proverbs in the chansons de geste from the twelfth century on. As the genre changes in time, so does its use of proverbial material; nonetheless, proverbs maintain the aura of "reality" as opposed to the "fiction" of romance. The title describes accurately the content of Alain-Julien Surdel's essay, "Typologie et stylistique des locutions sententieuses dans Le Mystère de S. Didier de Langres de Guillaume Flamant (1482)."

Volume II, Typologie du proverbe has a more varied collection of essays. Claude Balavoine in "Les Principes de la parémiographie érasmienne" discusses Erasmus' definition and collection of adages, his commentary on and method of organization of the material; the whole as an example of humanist culture. The "Proposition d'une méthodologie d'analyse des logiques d'un corpus proverbial" of Fernando Belo offers a philosophico-semantic theorization of proverbs based on Portuguese examples.

Catherine Bloc-Duraffour's "Traitement de la logique des rôles narratifs dans les proverbes italiens" provides a structural analysis of proverbs, culminating in an organization of the récit of Italian proverbs. Evelyne Brouzeng discusses in her "Stylistique comparée de la traduction de proverbes anglais et français" the need to find equivalent proverbs for use in translation, a problem complicated by the differing form of proverbs in different languages. She comments that equivalent proverbs in two languages can shed light on the nature of the language in question.

Pierre Cazier's contribution, "Les Sentences d'Isidore de Séville, genre littéraire et procédés stylistiques," demonstrates that Isidore used proverbial material as the framework of the Sentences. Cazier argues that the late-classical author referred to the auctoritas of proverbs to augment his pedagogic efforts. Charles Guiraud in his "Structure linguistique des proverbes latins" shows that there are semantic differences between classical Latin and Greek proverbs and that proverbs found in Latin literature seem fairly distant from their popular source. In "Le Concept de paromia: proverbium dans la haute et la basse antiquité," Anna Maria Ieraci-Bio examines the definitions of proverbs in the classical world in order to understand the significance of proverbs in Greco-Roman Antiquity.

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The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 11:2000 & Issue 12:2000, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

These two volumes form an outstanding collection of articles on a number of wide-ranging issues of concern to paremiologists. The variety of subjects and approaches makes Richesse du proverbe a valuable work indeed, deserving of its title.


Previously published in Proverbium 2 (1985), pp. 353-358.
Permission to publish this article granted by Proverbium (Editor: Prof. Wolfgang Mieder, University of Vermont, USA). 

1 Cf. the catalogue on the use and vitality of French proverbs currently being developed by Monique Coppens d'Eeckenbrugge, 252 Oude Baan, B-3000 Louvain, Belgium.

Wendy Pfeffer
Classical and Modern Languages
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky 40292


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