The Craft of La Fontaine

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Authors
Slater, Maya
Issue Date
2000
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Book, Whole
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Abstract
Slater's introduction stresses close reading, openness to surprise, and ambivalence in La Fontaine. She quotes Renée Kohn about La Fontaine's fables: it is one of the few books to grow up with the reader (viii). English-only readers and readers like me, with good French but not exhaustively good French, will be happy that every French passage is promptly translated. Again, a reader like me will probably be going to the index's specific passages on specific poems to find what she has to say. The reader travelling faithfully with Slater from start to finish is in for a long haul. She starts her first chapter, for example, with comments on La Fontaine's first lines and then moves to comments on his compression and on coincidence. Readers may want to read Slater's epilogue first. Let me quote some sections of it. La Fontaine's thoughts are consistently presented in an oblique manner. His writing needs to be decoded for its full impact. The reasons for obliqueness of political critique are apparent. Elsewhere the obliqueness may be due to a certain shyness. He is an entertainer, but he is insinuating questions and views. His poetry is a densely woven fabric. In this book I have tried to tease out someof the elements of an extremely subtle process by which artistic and moral complexities are seamlessly incorporated in a fable so that they may almost escape notice. La Fontaine seems easy but is not. La Fontaine is a poet who does not state, but instead suggests. His is a type of writing which insinuates ideas into the head of the reader, without the rader's being fully aware of what is happening. Oblique writing of this kind, found in his own 'Fables,' is what this book is about. I so look forward to the next time I am teaching La Fontaine! This book should be a wonderful companion then!
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The Athlone Press/Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
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