Project

Vocation of the site

The vocation of this site is to remind us that Moliere is the author of Moliere’s works, that Moliere the author and Moliere the actor are one and the same person, that no one until the beginning of the 20th century (and certainly not his contemporaries) had ever expressed the slightest shadow of a doubt as to that fact, and that there is in effect NOTHING susceptible to introducing THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT.

It is also to remind readers that since an unfounded doubt was first insinuated at the beginning of the 20th century by the poet and novelist Pierre Louÿs — driven all his life by a passion for pseudonyms and at the end of his life by a veritable attributive frenzy centred solely on Pierre Corneille —, tens of thousands of people, over the course of the 20th century, have turned their professional attention to Moliere and Corneille (teachers of French at the secondary level, university professors specialised in the the history of literature and of theatre as well as the study of rhetoric and stylistics, actors, directors) and that none of these specialists and professionals of the French language, of French literature and of theatre ever felt that Pierre Louÿs’s intuition was worthy of interest. Inversely, all of the individuals to have taken up the cause of the théorie Corneille invented by Louÿs comme from circles exterior to those of the professionals of the theatre that are actors, the professionals of the text that are secondary school teachers, and the professionals of history and language that are professors. A handful of people, then, who claim to be enlightened because they have read a few pages of Louÿs, attempting to spread their faith, their message passed on by a few journalists and media figures for whom anything susceptible to catching the public’s attention is worthy of coverage. And, like all followers of conspiracy theories, these persons accuse the universities, the state, the theatres and the Comédie-Française of trying to stifle the truth and attempt to spread sophistic arguments, biased studies and false “proofs” supporting the theory of their master.

It must be stated here, then, that it would not be in the interests of the university, the French state, the theatres and the Comédie-Française to stifle a theory that, if it rested on some foundation of truth, would offer France an inestimable advantage in a world which, even in the realm of knowledge and culture, has become exceedingly competitive: that of being able to boast an extraordinary playwright combining the genius of both Moliere and Corneille and thus greater still than the greatest of western playwrights, Shakespeare. But alas, though it displease Louÿs and his cultists, France must content itself with its brilliant Corneille and its brilliant Moliere: the age of Louis XIV was not able to produce a “genius squared”.

Why this site on Moliere-Corneille?

Since there is no doubt and one could content one’s self to simply laugh and shrug the matter off — as one can only laugh at those who allege that Shakespeare did not write his plays (see the article in the New Yorker) —, this site should in principle be quite useless and the thousands of hours its authors have devoted to its creation (as did specialists of Shakespeare before them) an utter waste of time. It is useless then, and yet it has been rendered absolutely necessary by the way in which current internet search engines function. Any person deciding to associate the names Moliere and Corneille in a search engine will immediately come upon a number of site asserting that Moliere was but an ignorant and overworked theatre director, intellectually and materially incapable of writing the masterpieces performed and published in his name, and that Corneille is the veritable author of Moliere’s principal comédies.

Since Google’s algorithms, through the association of the two names, turn up sites whose sole purpose is to call into question concrete knowledge, levelling allegations founded solely on the personal convictions of those who proffer them, it came to be deemed necessary by researchers from the Université Paris-Sorbonne to create a site that should have been called “Moliere-Moliere”, but which, under such a name, would not have been recognised by Google and which is therefore called (algorithms obligent), “Moliere-Corneille”.

A necessary site

This site which should not need to exist is the result of an ethical necessity. The purpose of the university in our society is not only to create and transmit knowledge, and to offer means of enriching or transforming it: it is also to explain how it is constituted, that is, to provide instruments (as much for the hard sciences as for the human sciences) to understand how knowledge is elaborated and thus enabling us to discern between scientific knowledge and the fiction of falsehood; between the description of reality and the construction of a fantastical image of reality. Historical reality and novelistic rêverie.

This site is to remind us that, viewed from the angle of science, reality is not a patchwork of disparate elements in the middle of which the discovery of a single particularity considered strange results in the destruction of everything that had, up to that point, made it possible to understand and describe reality. In fact, reality is the result of a construction operated by the actions of dozens, thousands, sometimes millions of interdependent actors. It is because there were innumerable interdependent actors — from those who filled the fuel tanks of the Saturn rockets to the millions of dumbfounded earthlings in front of their television screens, to the thousands of engineers of all nationalities who were able to follow the departing and returning trajectories of the Apollo module — that the denial of the American landing on the moon in 1969 is recognised as an outrageous tale that has only managed to convince a handful of people (ever more numerous, in truth, thanks to Google): if they had been alone in front of their television screens, the earthlings might well have been fooled by a cunning staging, filmed in a secret studio set up in the desert; but rather, they were part of an interdependent reality constructed by hundreds of thousands of people whose daily activities, carried out over the course of several years, permitted the landing on the moon to occur. Such that, bizarre as they may seem, elements like the flag flying in an atmosphere without air, shadows projected on the ground in a strange way, etc., are unable to invalidate the reality of the landing on the moon.

Historical reality of Molière the author

In other terms, the historical reality of Moliere the author is the result of a construction which took place over the course of centuries, made up of documents (still accessible today) which echo one another — letters by contemporaries, prefaces by Moliere himself, prefaces and polemical texts by his friends and more often his enemies, official texts, gazettes, epitaphs, etc…. This progressive constructions corresponds to the construction that took place during Moliere’s lifetime by his contemporaries who saw his plays, read his texts, spoke to him, etc. and which they have transmitted to us. That is why the historical reality of Moliere the author cannot be called into question by the fact that all of his manuscripts and letters have disappeared, that there is the occasional resemblance in vocabulary between his plays and Corneille’s, and that Corneille on one occasion, in a completely official way (the collaboration was announced by gazettes and confirmed in the publication of the play), finished versifying a play that Moliere had drafted, written in prose and of which he had only had time to versify the first quarter. In other words, the historical reality of Moliere cannot be the result of a fabrication based on a later reasoning which combines elements that have no links between them: 1. an element considered to be strange (the disappearance of all his manuscripts, which was not an exceptional phenomenon at the time); 2. a completely normal phenomenon (that there are similarities in the versification of Corneille’s plays and Moliere’s plays, but neither more nor less than with other contemporary dramatists); 3. a one-off event (the single collaboration on Psyché, limited to the versification by Corneille of three quarters of a play entirely composed in prose by Moliere and already partly versified).

From scientific doubt to revisionist doubt

Reasons for scientific doubt regarding untrustworthy biographies

What we call “the history of literature” is a discipline that originated very progressively in the 19th century by borrowing a part of its methods from other scientific disciplines (essentially from history and philology). Up to that point, knowledge about writers, their works, the literary genres, the actors of the literary (and dramatic) milieu resulted in the accumulation and the reduplication of discourse transmitted over the centuries by men of letters. Thus, in the case of Moliere, the publication at the beginning of the 18th century of a Life of Moliere by a man of letters named Grimarest served as a basis for all knowledge on the subject until the middle of the 19th century. Grimarest, repeatedly copied during almost two centuries, enriched by dozens of anecdotes that appeared as time went on and that other men of letters were quick to compile, was cited as a reliable source up until the appearance of the first “historians of literature”: some of which put together the philological resources available in order to create the first “scientific” edition of Moliere’s texts (the Grands écrivains de la France edition carried out by Eugène Despois and Paul Mesnard); the others searching for all the authentic documents pertaining to Moliere and creating a journal called Le Moliériste to gather together their many discoveries. The conjunction of their works has called into question most of Grimarests’s claims (including all of what he claimed to have learned from Baron, a star actor employed at the age of seventeen by Moliere who defected to the rival troupe immediately after Moliere’s death less than three years later), yet many of the first historians of literature never dared frankly and openly challenge his authority, or the authority he lent to Baron. One can understand, then, that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were reasons to doubt the current state of knowledge concerning Moliere. At a time when accusations against the most famous of all western actor-playwrights (Shakespeare) were being murmured all across Europe, all manner of doubt was permitted. Especially when these doubts began to take root in the mind of Pierre Louÿs, an excellent writer who, after a period of glory, fell into the most utter literary, intellectual, psychological, affective, physical and material decay and who his whole career had followed the star of the literary pseudonym and hoax.

From scientific doubt to revisionist doubt

Close to a century later, we are no longer in the same situation and our biographical, bibliographical, dramaturgical knowledge, and knowledge of the writer’s creative process (what in French is called génétique), have progressed to such an extent that to adopt the argumentation of Louÿs today amounts to miring one’s self in an anti-scientific process and in revisionism in the proper sense of the term. By applying obsolete criticism to an obsolete state of knowledge, the disciples of Louÿs diverge even farther than their master (excusable a century ago) from the advances of research in order to put forth personal and unfounded montages. In sum, under the pretext that one could not have faith in the state of scientific knowledge at a time when the history of literature was not yet entrenched as one of the disciplines of the human sciences, the followers of Louÿs continue to contest the state of knowledge (which has since become scientific) and forge purely fabricated stories. Under the specious pretext of free research and free speech, they have been led to use any means necessary to keep afloat the novelistic scenario imagined by Louÿs a century ago. In so doing, they have sunk into a process aiming to purely and simply invent false knowledge, to deny proven knowledge, to offer biased readings of texts; in sum, a process that in other sectors of study are rightly referred to as revisionism.