As an American who studies European art, I must confess to a particular fascination with how European societies characterize each other. Stereotypes, rivalries, projections, and politically charged allegiances inflect all aspects of European culture. In eighteenth-century studies, we encounter this most commonly in the appreciation and animosities exchanged between Britain and France. My recent research on the Rococo took me to explore a different yet equally charged rivalry – that of Germany and France.
In his fiction, the Marquis de Sade conceived countless ways to die. The most shocking ones are notorious: After having escaped from the hands of numerous libertines, the virtuous Justine is struck by lightning. Other victims are just as unfortunate and end up being tortured to death by Juliette and her fellow libertines. In Les Cent-Vingt Journées de Sodome, the duc de Blangis even informs a host of beautiful creatures that they should already consider themselves ‘dead to the world’ before having been dispatched.
Voltaire, over the course of his long career, had a taste for publishing works under pseudonyms: perhaps most famously, M. le docteur Ralph, author of Candide, in whose pockets additions to the tale were supposedly found after the good doctor’s death. Also the rabbi Akib, the abbé Bazin, M. de Morza, to list but a few of his many noms de plume.
The Besterman Centre for the Enlightenment and the TORCH Enlightenment Programme invite you to the 2014 Besterman Lecture: ‘ “True Enlightenment can be both achieved and beneficial” – The German Enlightenment and its interpretation’ by Joachim Whaley, Professor of German History and Thought, Cambridge, on Thursday 20 November 2014, at 5:15 pm, in Room 2, Taylor Institution, Oxford.
From 1755 to 1760, Voltaire lived at Les Délices in Geneva, where he notably wrote the Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne, in reaction to the devastating earthquake that struck Lisbon on 1 November 1755, contributed articles to the Encyclopédie, and put the finishing touches to his most famous work, Candide, begun at his winter quarters at
Le désenchantement face à la construction européenne n’est pas neuf. L’âge d’or qui présida, après la seconde guerre mondiale, à la renaissance du projet européen, fut de courte durée. Aussi depuis trente ans la désillusion ne cesse-t-elle de s’approfondir et de prendre des formes nouvelles.