The first phase of this project focuses on the work of the largely forgotten Catholic polemicist Artus Désiré (c. 1510 – c. 1579). Some might ask why we would devote the entire first phase to a single author – especially a relatively obscure one who is (rightly) remembered by those who do remember him as a “cantankerous hack” (Flood, “Of Pastorals and Partisans”). There are multiple reasons for this choice:
- Though ineloquent and belligerent, Désiré was one of the most prolific and, it would seem, well received Catholic polemicists of the time. “In the span of about thirty years, this common priest published over one hundred editions of his twenty-five lengthy, anti-Protestant pamphlets” (Flood, “Of Pastorals and Partisans”). Only public demand could have justified this level of publication.
- Past scholarship on sixteenth-century French polemics tends to devote more attention to the works of Protestant authors. There is little doubt that the Protestants engaged in the war of words surrounding the Reformation were the more talented writers and satirists. However, this lopsided approach only offers access to half of the conversation – like listening to one side of a telephone call. By reintroducing Désiré’s work, we hope to take significant, immediate steps toward the larger goal of reconstructing the whole conversation.
- Désiré was unusually dedicated to editing and rewriting his published works. Thus, tracing the changes he makes over the course of several editions can offer insights into the evolving rhetorical and social strategies shaping the conflict. In fact, this is the original idea / need that led to the larger project: transcribing Désiré’s pamphlets in order to compare multiple revised editions of a work.