Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

January 1997


Published in French Literature Series, Vol. XXIV (1997), pp. 201–213. Copyright © 1997 Editions Rodopi. Used by permission.

Sponsored by the French Program in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of South Carolina,


The opening sonnets of Jean de La Ceppède’s Théorèmes (1613, 1622) present an urban vs. rural conflict that mirrors the dialectic between sin and salvation running throughout the work. La Ceppède’s focus for this struggle becomes the stark contrast between Jerusalem and the garden at the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem, as the place where Christ is persecuted and eventually tried, represents a Babylon-like enclave of transgression, while the garden is portrayed as a site of purity and tranquil reflection. From a literary standpoint, La Ceppède’s emphasis on the clash between dystopian and utopian settings comprises part of his adaptation of the pastoral, where this particular struggle becomes one of the genre’s principal motifs. In general, the contrast between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives emerges as the point of departure for the poet’s figuration of nature, both human and physical. A human construct, the city of Jerusalem becomes a metaphor for human corruption. In view of humanity’s fall in paradise and the denaturation it symbolizes, the poet’s goal, on both intellectual and affective levels, is to place the reader/dévot in a position to lift her/himself from the depravity of human nature to the grace of divine nature.