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Rabelaisian adj : of or relating to or characteristic of Francois Rabelais or his works; "Rabelaisian characters"

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  1. Pertaining to the works of Rabelais. Specifically, it means a style of satirical humour characterized by exaggerated characters and coarse jokes.


Pertaining to the works of Rabelais

Extensive Definition

François Rabelais (c. 1494 - April 9, 1553) was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor and humanist. He is regarded as an avant-garde writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, dirty jokes and bawdy songs.


Although the place (or date) of his birth is not reliably documented, it is probable that François Rabelais was born in 1494 near Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, where his father worked as a lawyer. La Devinière in Seuilly, Indre-et-Loire, is the name of the estate that claimes to be the writer's birthplace and houses a Rabelais museum.

Rabelais' Thelema

Gargantua and Pantagruel tells the story of two giants - a father, Gargantua, and his son, Pantagruel - and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, and satirical vein.
While the first two books focus on the lives of the two giants, the rest of the series is mostly devoted to the adventures of Pantagruel's friends - such as Panurge, a roguish erudite maverick, and Brother Jean, a bold, voracious and boozing ex-monk - and others on a collective naval journey in search of the Divine Bottle.
Even though most chapters are humorous, wildly fantastic and sometimes absurd, a few relatively serious passages have become famous for descriptions of humanistic ideals of the time. In particular, the letter of Gargantua to Pantagruel and the chapters on Gargantua's boyhood present a rather detailed vision of education.
It is in the first book where Rabelais writes of the Abbey of Thélème, built by the giant Gargantua. It pokes fun at the monastic institutions, since his abbey has a swimming pool, maid service, and no clocks in sight.
One of the verses of the inscription on the gate to the Abbey says:
Grace, honour, praise, delight,
Here sojourn day and night.
Sound bodies lined
With a good mind,
Do here pursue with might
Grace, honour, praise, delight.
But below the humor was a very real concept of utopia and the ideal society. Rabelais gives us a description of how the Thelemites of the Abbey lived and the rules they lived by:
All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order there was but this one clause to be observed,
because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us.
see also Thelema

Rabelais and language

The French Renaissance was a time of linguistic controversies. Among the issues that were debated by scholars was the question of the origin of language. What was the first language? Is language something that all humans are born with or something that they learn (nature versus nurture) ? Is there some sort of connection between words and the objects they refer to, or are words purely arbitrary? Rabelais deals with these matters, among many others, in his books.
The early 16th century was also a time of innovations and change for the French language, especially in its written form. The first grammar was published in 1530, followed nine years later by the first dictionary. Since spelling was far less codified than it is now, each author used his own orthography. Rabelais himself developed his personal set of rather complex rules. He was a supporter of etymological spelling, i.e. one that reflects the origin of words, and was thus opposed to those who favoured a simplified spelling, one that reflects the actual pronunciation of words.
Rabelais' use of his native tongue was astoundingly original, lively, and creative. He introduced dozens of Greek, Latin, and Italian loan-words and direct translations of Greek and Latin compound words and idioms into French. He also used many dialectal forms and invented new words and metaphors, some of which have become part of the standard language and are still used today. Rabelais is arguably one of the authors who have enriched the French language in the most significant way.
His works are also known for being filled with sexual double-entendre, dirty jokes and bawdy songs that can still surprise or even shock modern readers.

Contemporary writers on Rabelais

Rabelais has influenced many modern writers and scholars.
Jonathan Swift was influenced by and his writing has been compared with Rabelais and Cervantes.
Anatole France lectured on him in Argentina. John Cowper Powys, D. B. Wyndham Lewis, and Lucien Febvre (one of the founders of the French historical school Annales) wrote books about him. Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian philosopher and critic, derived his celebrated concept of the carnivalesque and grotesque body from the world of Rabelais.
Aleister Crowley's writings heavily borrow from Rabelais themes.
Milan Kundera, in an article of January 8, 2007 in The New Yorker: "(Rabelais) is, along with Cervantes, the founder of an entire art, the art of the novel." (page 31). He speaks in the highest terms of Rabelais, calling him "the best", along with Flaubert.
Rabelais was also a major reference point for a few main characters (Boozing wayward monks, University Professors, and Assistants) in Robertson Davies's novel The Rebel Angels, part of the The Cornish Trilogy. One of the main character in the novel, Maria Theotoky, writes her Ph.D. on the works of Rabelais, while a murder plot unfolds around a scholarly unscathed manuscript.

In popular culture

  • The bus that runs late at night in his university town of Montpellier is named "Le Rabelais" in his honour.
  • Asteroid (5666) Rabelais is named in honor of François Rabelais.

Works of Rabelais

  • Gargantua and Pantagruel, a series of four or five books including:
    • Pantagruel (1532)
    • La vie très horrifique du grand Gargantua, usually called Gargantua (1534)
    • Le tiers livre ("The third book", 1546)
    • Le quart livre ("The fourth book", 1552)
    • Le quint livre (A fifth book, whose attribution to Rabelais is debated)



  • Alex Online. (2003). Alex Online. Retrieved on April 20, 2006.
  • Del Campo, Gerald. Rabelais: The First Thelemite. The Order of Thelemic Knights.
  • Febvre, Lucien. Gottlieb, Beatrice trans. The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982)
  • Thelemapedia. (2004). François Rabelais. Retrieved on April 14, 2006.
  • Lee, Jae Num. "Scatology in Continental Satirical Writings from Aristophanes to Rabelais" and "English Scatological Writings from Skelton to Pope." Swift and Scatological Satire. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1971. 7-22; 23-53.
Rabelaisian in Bosnian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Breton: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Bulgarian: Франсоа Рабле
Rabelaisian in Catalan: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Czech: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in German: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Modern Greek (1453-): Φρανσουά Ραμπελαί
Rabelaisian in Spanish: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Esperanto: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in French: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Galician: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Korean: 프랑수아 라블레
Rabelaisian in Croatian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Ido: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Icelandic: Francois Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Italian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Hebrew: פרנסואה רבלה
Rabelaisian in Georgian: ფრანსუა რაბლე
Rabelaisian in Latin: Franciscus Rabelaesus
Rabelaisian in Lithuanian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Dutch: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Japanese: フランソワ・ラブレー
Rabelaisian in Norwegian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Norwegian Nynorsk: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Occitan (post 1500): François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Polish: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Portuguese: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Romanian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Russian: Рабле, Франсуа
Rabelaisian in Slovak: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Serbian: Франсоа Рабле
Rabelaisian in Serbo-Croatian: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Finnish: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Swedish: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Turkish: François Rabelais
Rabelaisian in Ukrainian: Рабле Франсуа
Rabelaisian in Chinese: 弗朗索瓦·拉伯雷

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