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Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment


Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the first major reinterpretation of the French Enlightenment in twenty years, Dena Goodman moves beyond the traditional approach to the Enlightenment as a chapter in Western intellectual history and examines its deeper significance as cultural history. She finds the very epicenter of the Enlightenment in a community of discourse known as the Republic of Letters, where salons governed by women advanced the Enlightenment project "to change the common way of thinking". Goodman details the history of the Republic of Letters in the Parisian salons, where men and women, philosophes and salonnieres, together not only introduced reciprocity into intellectual life through the practices of letter writing and polite conversation but also developed a republican model of government that was to challenge the monarchy. Providing a new understanding of women's importance in the Enlightenment, Goodman demonstrates that in the Republic of Letters men and women played complementary - and unequal - roles. Salonnieres governed the Republic of Letters by enforcing rules of polite conversation that made possible a discourse characterized by liberty and civility. Goodman chronicles the story of the Republic of Letters from its earliest formation through major periods of change: the production of the Encyclopedia, the proliferation of a print culture that widened circles of readership beyond the control of salon governance, and the early years of the French Revolution. Although the legacy of the Republic of Letters remained a force in French cultural and political life, in the 1780s men formed new intellectual institutions that asserted their ability to govern themselves and that marginalized women. TheRepublic of Letters introduces provocative explanations both for the failure of the Enlightenment and for the role of the Enlightenment in the French Revolution.


Includes bibliographical references (p. [313]-328) and index.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A cultural history of the French Enlightenment — The rise of the state: The Republic of Letters and the monarchy of France. The Republic of Letters in the seventeenth century ; The Encyclopedie and the project of Enlightenment ; Citizenship and the Enlightenment Republic of Letters ; — Philosophes and salonnieres: A critique of Enlightenment historiography. Rousseau's critique of salons and philosophes ; Rousseau's critique and twentieth-century historiography ; The Enlightenment salonniere — Governing the Republic of Letters: Salonnieres and the rule(s) of polite conversation ; Cultural practices of the Old Regime ; Republican governance in the salons ; Polite conversation and the Enlightenment discourse — Into writing: Epistolary commerce in the Republic

Product Details

Goodman, Dena
Cornell University Press
Ithaca :
Europe - France
16th century
French literature
French prose literature
Enlightenment -- France.
World History-France
Series Volume:
v. 2
Publication Date:
xii, 338 p.
9.29x6.18x.86 in. 1.15 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » France » 18th Century and Revolutionary
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » France » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment New Trade Paper
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Product details xii, 338 p. pages Cornell University Press - English 9780801481741 Reviews:
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