This comparative essay studies the rhetorical role of the spiel in fiction, focusing on four comic works of the XVIth century: the macaronic poem of Folengo (1521 and 1552) ; the novels of Rabelais from 1532 to 1552 ; the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) ; the novel of the Elizabethan pamphleteer Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller (1594).
In early modern Europe, when books were circulated in a wider, often hard-to-control network, the histrionic authorial persona, advertising his own tale, questioned the respective powers of oral versus printed literature. This ironic, histrionic attitude puts at risk the reader's trust in what he reads and thus reveale tensions between a curious reader and an author who pretends to praise not just a book but an ideal good. In the end, the question of whether fiction is true or false becomes less central and gives place to a new question?: how can fiction be useful? French text.
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