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When Misrepresentation Sends a Poet to Prison: Henri Baude's Plea against "Bad Readers"

Sat, March 24, 9:00 to 10:30am, Hilton Riverside, 1st Level - Grand Salon Breakout 3

Abstract

In 1486, French poet Henri Baude celebrated the new reign of Charles VIII by writing a morality play in which he portrays the king as a fertile spring that could revitalize the kingdom – unless “mud, weeds and roots” made its water cloudy. After several courtiers identified themselves as these earthly objects, Baude was imprisoned inside the infamous Châtelet. From there, he wrote two epistles asking his protector, the duke of Bourbon, to personally read the play. Blaming his accusers for having misinterpreted its allegories, Baude suggests they have built up a far-fetched subtext. In his fight against false accusations, not only does the poet set forth first-hand reading as the only source of an informed decision, but he also warns us against the manipulations a prejudiced reader can subject a text to. This paper aims to uncover the ideal reader whom Baude’s defense strategy lays the groundwork for.

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