The Enlightenment in Practice
Academic Prize Contests and Intellectual Culture in France, 1670–1794
Publication Year: 2012
Public academic prize contests-the concours académique-played a significant role in the intellectual life of Enlightenment France, with aspirants formulating positions on such matters as slavery, poverty, the education of women, tax reform, and urban renewal and submitting the resulting essays for scrutiny by panels of judges. In The Enlightenment in Practice, Jeremy L. Caradonna draws on archives both in Paris and the provinces to show that thousands of individuals-ranging from elite men and women of letters artisans, and peasants-participated in these intellectual competitions, a far broader range of people than has been previously assumed.
Caradonna contends that the Enlightenment in France can no longer be seen as a cultural movement restricted to a small coterie of philosophers or a limited number of printed texts. Moreover, Caradonna demonstrates that the French monarchy took academic competitions quite seriously, sponsoring numerous contests on such practical matters as deforestation, the quality of drinking water, and the nighttime illumination of cities. In some cases, the contests served as an early mechanism for technology transfer: the state used submissions to identify technical experts to whom it could turn for advice. Finally, the author shows how this unique intellectual exercise declined during the upheavals of the French Revolution, when voicing moderate public criticism became a rather dangerous act.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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...out the generous support of granting agencies, institutions, colleagues, friends, and family. on the material side, i wish to acknowledge the support i received from The Johns hopkins University, which provided me with several travel and research grants, including the J. Brien Key Fellowship. i am particularly indebted to the Fulbright Foundation, which financed my main ...
Note on Abbreviationsand Translation
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...begins on a balmy afternoon in October of 1749, on a dusty road connecting Paris to the nearby royal dungeons at Vincennes. On that day, a thirty-seven-year-old music teacher named Jean-Jacques Rousseau set out on foot to visit his friend Denis Diderot in prison. The crown had incarcerated the luck-less philosopher a few months earlier for publishing two highly scandalous ...
Chapter 1The Rebirth of the Concours Académique
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...could not graduate from collège, attend a university, or participate in a literary society without at some point encountering an intellectual battle of wits. Indeed, France possessed what we might reasonably term a “concours culture”; competitive examinations, prize contests, and award ceremonies protruded To begin with, intellectual competitions saturated the curricula of Jesuit ...
Chapter 2À la Recherche du Concours Académique
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...académique—the academies of the Old Regime designated public prize competitions with a variety of terms. The multiplicity of labels is a strong indication of the diversity of the practice. Poetry and essay contests were the most common form of structured academic concours, but many new types of competitions came into existence over the course of the eighteenth century, ...
Chapter 3The Participatory Enlightenment
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Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Louis XIV haunted the concours académique. Although the Sun King died in 1715, he continued to appear and reappear in academic contests throughout the first half of the eighteenth century. Nothing dem-onstrates more clearly the colossal imprint that Louis left on the academic establishment than his posthumous career in the concours of the French Acad-...
Chapter 4Dijon Revisited
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...concours académique—and particularly the prize contest of 1749–1750 at the Academy of Dijon—meant to the intellectual development of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.1 Yet virtually no one has ever inverted the question to consider what Rousseau might have meant to the concours académique. Almost over-night, a newly established and relatively unknown academy in Burgundy had ...
Chapter 5The Concours Académique, Political Culture,and the Critical Public Sphere
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Sphere—still the most influential interpretation of the public sphere in En-lightenment Europe—Jürgen Habermas argued that the liberal public of the eighteenth century, grounded in the intimacy of the conjugal family and fa-cilitated by the rise of bourgeois consumerism, broke off from court society and established itself as a sphere of cultural action free from the absolutist ...
Chapter 6The Practical Enlightenment
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...nineteenth century. From Napoléon’s reign through the end of the century, a paid legion of professional technocrats slowly came to replace the poly-mathic, semiautonomous “men of letters” who doubled as governmental consultants during the Old Regime. Indeed, viewed through the prism of the Third Republic, with its elite universities and well-financed research labs, ...
Chapter 7Prize Contests in theRevolutionary Crucible
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...the French Revolution? Did prize competitions keep pace with the evolv-ing political culture? Did the practice remain a site of critical intellectual To answer these questions first requires an analysis of the academies dur-ing the Revolution, since the history of prize contests is intimately tied to the plight of the scholarly institutions that organized them. From the sum-...
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...reappeared shortly after the bloody paroxysms of the Terror. In 1795, only two years after the abolition of scholarly societies, the Revolutionary govern-ment reestablished the academies in the form of a centralized body known as the Institut de France, and this new heterogeneous body immediately began organizing prize contests.1 Indeed, the Institut has continued holding public ...
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Page Count: 333
Publication Year: 2012