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Monstres et merveilles

Annie Cazenave
Ethnologie française
nouvelle serie, T. 9, No. 3 (juillet-septembre 1979), pp. 235-256
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40988545
Page Count: 22
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Monstres et merveilles
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Abstract

L'intérêt de la culture savante pour les monstres marins tient d'une part à la Bible, selon laquelle ils ont été créés le cinquième jour, et où figurent Léviathan, le cetus de Jonas et les sirènes. D'autre part, les auteurs antiques lus par les clercs, Pline en particulier, en ont dressé des listes, et cet exotisme littéraire se combine à l'imaginaire des légendes populaires. De ces sources naissent donc deux grands courants : symbolique, où les monstres marins représentent, sous des formes diverses la mort; naturaliste, lequel, à cause de la fol médiévale dans les auctoritates, compile des descriptions sans les vérifier par l'expérience. Le doute s'insinue à la Renaissance, avec le changement d'esprit, et ces créatures sont progressivement reléguées dans l'allégorie et le fantastique. The interest shown by the elite culture for sea monsters stems, on the one hand, from the Bible, according to which such creatures as the Leviathan, Jonas' whale and mermaids were created on the fifth day. On the other hand, classical authors, and especially Pliny, were studied by clerics who made lists of these monsters. This literary exoticism is connected with the imagination of folk tales and legends. Two important schools of thought developed from these sources. For the symbolic school, sea monsters represent death in various forms whereas the naturalistic school, endowed with the firms medieval belief in the auctoritates, compiled descriptions of monsters without any empiric investigation. Doubt first appears during the Renaissance as a consequence of the change in the way of thinking. From then on these creatures become progressively isolated in allegory and the fantastic.

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