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Reviews Rococo Style versus Enlightenment Novel, by Patrick Brady; iii & 304 pp. Geneva: Editions Slatkine, 1984, $8.00. "Such is the world of the rococo—so distant from that of the Enlightenment" (p. 225); and such is the conclusion to Patrick Brady's Rococo Style versus Enlightenment Novel—so enlightened with twenty years of critical distance from Roger Laufer's Style rococo, style des "Lumières" (Paris: Corti, 1963). This first study needs to be mentioned, for Professor Brady's selected writings on the eighteenth-century French rococo littéraire, effectively arranged in Rococo Style versusEnlightenmentNovel, are indeed meant to provide a programmatic "rebuttal of Roger Laufer's volume" (p. 7). In deliberate contrast, then, to Laufer's overly enthusiastic urge to establish straightaway the rococo as the stylistic label to be applied to the artistic (and cultural) whole of France's "Enlightened" eighteenth century, Brady instead embarked in 1963 upon the two decades of patient probing that are recorded (with pertinent update and modification) in this informative compilation volume . Brady began the long project by going to the visual arts of the French eighteenth century—concentrating more upon the first half and upon interiordecorative art in particular—for rococo stylistic criteria whose equivalents could then be sought out in the literary art of the era. This primary preoccupation is addressed within multiple contexts in the introduction and three chapters comprising Part One, as the first part ofthe bipartite volume draws upon eleven previously published articles. A second major concern for Brady was to draw attention to France's artistic plurality, rather than to any "monolithic" pattern, throughout its diversely creative eighteenth century; we follow him as he identifies , in the French plastic arts (Chapter II) and in the literary domain (Chapter III), post-Classical and pseudo-Classical tendencies dominating at the century's outset and germane strains reappearing during the second part of the century under neo-Classical guise. As a result of his comparative focus in Chapters II and III, Brady finds the later neo-Classkism a more logical stylistic partner for "les Lumières," with the "style rococo" coming earlier in the century and gravitating in a rather opposite aesthetic direction—and thus, the "versus" of his tide. 129 130Philosophy and Literature After establishing, in Part One, the necessary theoretical base from which to carry out specific textual analyses, Brady opens Part Two with a newly composed introduction wherein he firms up the challenge: "In Part Two, we shall tackle [Laufer] on his own ground, re-examining the novels he cites in the light of the most recent research on the concept of rococo style ..." (p. 143). Wanting to label as rococo "the four great 'Enlighteners' " (p. 143), Laufer chose to examine Montesquieu's Lettrespersanes, Voltaire's LIngénu (Brady substitutes the more universally popular Candide), Diderot's LeNeveudeRameau, and Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse. Calling upon a flexible exegetical framework allowing for a plurality ofstrains (each capable ofanswering for particular structural, stylistic, or thematic tendencies), Brady is able, at the end of his own four analyses, to point to the Baroque, Classical, post-Classical, pseudo-Classical, rococo, neoclassical , pre-Romantic, Romantic, or naturalist elements present in each work; in doing so, however, he fails to find the rococo dominating even once. Then, instead of reexamining Laufer's fifth textual choice, Laclos's late-century L·s Liaisons dangereuses (1782), Brady fortunately chooses to focus upon an earlier novel wherein he does find the rococo the dominating influence—Marivaux's La Vie de Marianne (1 731—41). The resulting essay, constituting the final chapter of die book, represents some of the best scholarship of the volume. It offers exemplification of what the rococo is in eighteenth-century French narrative after useful examples of what it is not, and it brings newer critical dimensions to the rococo discussion, occasioned by Brady's own adoption of structuralist reading strategies at the outset of the 1970s. A brief "General Conclusion" offers appropriate closure to the study as well as the felicitous final line of the volume with which this review began. University of the SouthGeorge Poe Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology, by W. J. T. Mitchell; ? & 226 pp. Chicago: University of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 129-130
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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