Pure Filth is an expansive study of early French farce with a great deal to offer anyone interested in the transition from medieval to early modern drama or, for that matter, in “the tensions, antagonisms, and instabilities that imbued popular devotion at the dawn of the Reformation” (110). Rather than downplaying the superficiality, obscenity, and kitsch that characterize farce, Noah Guynn shows how these qualities allow the genre as a whole to imagine “the possibility of a more ethical and just future precisely by disrupting a conventional language of virtue and vice and by demonstrating the scandalous lack of justice in the present moment” (71). His argument, which moves “from the openendedness of farce (its lack of aesthetic and moral closure) . . . toward its largely unrealized and unarticulated ethics and politics” (74), is all the more remarkable and worth reading because it troubles along the way any settled...

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