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In the King's Wake: Post-Absolutist Culture in Franceby Jay Caplan
Synopses & Reviews
Long before the guillotines of the 1789 Revolution brought a grisly political end to the ancien régime, Jay Caplan argues, the culture of absolutism had already perished. In the King's Wake traces the emergence of a post-absolutist culture across a wide range of works and genres: Saint-Simon's memoirs of Louis XIV and the Regency; Voltaire's first tragedy, Oedipe; Watteau's last great painting, L'Enseigne de Gersaint; the plays of Marivaux; and Casanova's History of My Life.
While absolutist culture had focused on value directly represented in people (e.g., those of noble blood) and things (e.g., coins made of precious metals), post-absolutist culture instead explored the capacity of signs to stand for something real (e.g., John Law's banknotes or Marivaux's plays in which actions rather than birth signify nobility). Between the image of the Sun King and visions of the godlike Romantic self, Caplan discovers a post-absolutist France wracked by surprisingly modern conflicts over the true sources of value and legitimacy.
Book News Annotation:
Through close examination of such cultural objects as Saint-Simon's memoirs of Louis XIV and the Regency; Voltaire's first tragedy, Oedipe; Watteau's last great painting, ; and the plays of Marivaux; and Casanova's History of My Life, Caplan (French, Amherst College) shows the demise of French absolutism occurring long before the French Revolution toppled Louis XVI. Arguing that this absolutism ended when it relied on signs instead of the intrinsic nobility of blood, Caplan shows various attempts to re-define nobility, as in Voltaire's self-coronation based upon the foundation of noble actions instead of noble blood.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
List of IllustrationsIntroduction1. A Post-Absolutist Subject: Saint-Simon2. "Le Poete Roy": Voltaire's Oedipe3. The King's Insignia: Watteau, L'Enseigne de Gersaint4. Love and Speculation: Marivaux5. Drawing Kings: Casanova and VoltaireConclusionNotesIndex
Includes bibliographical references (p. -206) and index.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. A Post-Absolutist
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