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The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration
The decision of Louis XIV to revoke the Edict of Nantes and thus liquidate French Calvinism was well received in the intellectual community which was deeply prejudiced against the Huguenots. This antipathy would gradually disappear. After the death of the Sun King, a more sympathetic view of the Protestant minority was presented to French readers by leading thinkers such as Montesquieu, the abbé Prévost, and Voltaire. By the middle years of the eighteenth century, liberal clerics, lawyers, and government ministers joined Encyclopedists in urging the emancipation of the Reformed who were seen to be loyal, peaceable and productive. Then, in 1787, thanks to intensive lobbying by a group which included Malesherbes, Lafayette, and the future revolutionary Rabaut Saint-Étienne, the government of Louis XVI issued an edict of toleration which granted the Huguenots a modest bill of civil and religious rights.
Adams’ illuminating work treats a major chapter in the history of toleration; it explores in depth a fascinating shift in mentalités, and it offers a new focus on the process of “reform from above” in pre-Revolutionary France.
Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System
Colbert has long been celebrated as Louis XIV's minister of finance, trade, and industry. More recently, he has been viewed as his minister of culture and propaganda. In this lively and persuasive book, Jake Soll has given us a third Colbert, the information manager. ---Peter Burke, University of Cambridge "Jacob Soll gives us a road map drawn from the French state under Colbert. With a stunning attention to detail Colbert used knowledge in the service of enhancing royal power. Jacob Soll's scholarship is impeccable and his story long overdue and compelling." ---Margaret Jacob, University of California, Los Angeles "Nowadays we all know that information is the key to power, and that the masters of information rule the world. Jacob Soll teaches us that Jean-Baptiste Colbert had grasped this principle three and a half centuries ago, and used it to construct a new kind of state. This imaginative, erudite, and powerfully written book re-creates the history of libraries and archives in early modern Europe, and ties them in a novel and convincing way to the new statecraft of Europe's absolute monarchs." ---Anthony Grafton, Princeton University "Brilliantly researched, superbly told, and timely, Soll's story is crucial for the history of the modern state." ---Keith Baker, Stanford University When Louis XIV asked his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert---the man who was to oversee the building of Versailles and the Royal Academy of Sciences, as well as the navy, the Paris police force, and French industry---to build a large-scale administrative government, Colbert created an unprecedented information system for political power. In The Information Master, Jacob Soll shows how the legacy of Colbert's encyclopedic tradition lies at the very center of the rise of the modern state and was a precursor to industrial intelligence and Internet search engines. Soll's innovative look at Colbert's rise to power argues that his practice of collecting knowledge originated from techniques of church scholarship and from Renaissance Italy, where merchants recognized the power to be gained from merging scholarship, finance, and library science. With his connection of interdisciplinary approaches---regarding accounting, state administration, archives, libraries, merchant techniques, ecclesiastical culture, policing, and humanist pedagogy---Soll has written an innovative book that will redefine not only the history of the reign of Louis XIV and information science but also the study of political and economic history. Jacob Soll is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University and the author of Publishing The Prince: History, Reading, and the Birth of Political Criticism (University of Michigan Press, 2005), and winner of the 2005 Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship. Soll edited a special issue of Journal of the History of Ideas titled "The Uses of Historical Evidence in Early Modern Europe"; has cofounded the online journal Republics of Letters; and is editor, along with Anthony Grafton and Ann Blair, of the series Cultures of Knowledge in the Early Modern World. Jacket illustration: Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619–1683), Philippe de Champaigne, 1655, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Wildenstein Foundation, Inc., 1951 (51.34). Photograph © 2003 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In January 1847, a grain convoy passed through Buzançais, an obscure village in a remote region of central France that was suffering from hunger, high prices, and widespread unemployment. Villagers intercepted the shipment, invaded granaries and mills, and forced resale of the grain at a just price set by the people. What started as a classic subsistence movement, however, triggered two days of rioting and class hostility punctuated by uncommon property damage and death. Disorder soon spread throughout the region. The Buzançais riot quickly became an evocative symbol of the rights of the people, and stories about the riot have survived into the twenty-first century. In Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture, Cynthia A. Bouton traces how the production and marketing of the Buzançais riot story served political commentators, publishers, authors, illustrators, and local enthusiasts, enabling them to draw upon key points from the 1847 uprising to negotiate issues relevant to their own times. Bouton argues that over time, especially from the 1970s, the persistent integration of stories of social protest into a widening variety of media has helped shape French political identity as one in which the politics of the street has become as customary as the politics of political assemblies. Bouton examines representations of the riot in newspapers, novels, illustrations, popular and scholarly historical narratives, cartoons, television, local spectacles, and on the Internet. She analyzes power relations embedded in texts and in images; the ways in which texts and images complement, complicate, and contradict each other; and the ways in which history, memory, and fiction intersect. Both in 1847 and subsequently, she shows, efforts to reorder the disorder at Buzançais have exposed aspects of French social and cultural attitudes and practices. She demonstrates that the particular media employed to tell the Buzançais story both constrained and empowered the messages conveyed by textual and visual narratives of it, perhaps as much as the ideological positions of authors, illustrators, or producers. By probing the relationship between medium and story in relation to the Buzançais riot, Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture offers a new interpretation of this defining moment in French history.
From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metapsychics in France, 1853–1931
Séances were wildly popular in France between 1850 and 1930, when members of the general public and scholars alike turned to the wondrous as a means of understanding and explaining the world. Sofie Lachapelle explores how five distinct groups attempted to use and legitimize séances: spiritists, who tried to create a new “science” concerned with the spiritual realm and the afterlife; occultists, who hoped to connect ancient revelations with contemporary science; physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, who developed a pathology of supernatural experiences; psychical researchers, who drew on the unexplained experiences of the public to create a new field of research; and metapsychists, who attempted to develop a new science of yet-to-be understood natural forces. Lachapelle examines the practices, aims, and level of success of these five disciplines, paying special attention to how they interacted with each other and with the world of mainstream science. Their practitioners regarded mystical phenomena worthy of serious study; most devotees—with notable exceptions of physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists—also meant to challenge conventional science in general and French science in particular. Through these stories, Lachapelle illuminates the lively relationship between science and the supernatural in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France and relates why this relationship ultimately led to the marginalization of psychical research and metapsychics. An enlightening and entertaining narrative that includes colorful people like "Allan Kardec"—a pseudonymous former mathematics teacher from Lyon who wrote successful works on the science of the séance and what happened after death—Investigating the Supernatural reveals the rich and vibrant diversity of unorthodox beliefs and practices that existed at the borders of the French scientific culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Music, "Race," and Intellectuals in France, 1918-1945
Jeremy F. Lane’s Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism is a bold challenge to the existing homogenous picture of the reception of American jazz in world-war era France. Lane’s book closely examines the reception of jazz among French-speaking intellectuals between 1918 and 1945 and is the first study to consider the relationships, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes antagonistic, between early white French jazz critics and those French-speaking intellectuals of color whose first encounters with the music in those years played a catalytic role in their emerging black or Creole consciousness. Jazz’s first arrival in France in 1918 coincided with a series of profound shocks to received notions of French national identity and cultural and moral superiority. These shocks, characteristic of the era of machine-age imperialism, had been provoked by the first total mechanized war, the accelerated introduction of Taylorist and Fordist production techniques into European factories, and the more frequent encounters with primitive “Others” in the imperial metropolis engendered by interwar imperialism. Through close readings of the work of early white French jazz critics, alongside the essays and poems of intellectuals of color such as the Nardal sisters, Léon-Gontran Damas, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and René Ménil, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism highlights the ways in which the French reception of jazz was bound up with a series of urgent contemporary debates about primitivism, imperialism, anti-imperialism, black and Creole consciousness, and the effects of American machine-age technologies on the minds and bodies of French citizens.
Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps
An elegant translation of one of the most popular novels of its time.
Rousseau's great epistolary novel, Julie, or the New Heloise, has been virtually unavailable in English since 1810. In it, Rousseau reconceptualized the relationship of the individual to the collective and articulated a new moral paradigm. The story follows the fates and smoldering passions of Julie d'Etange and St. Preux, a one-time lover who re-enters Julie's life at the invitation of her unsuspecting husband, M. de Wolmar.
The complex tones of this work made it a commercial success and a continental sensation when it first appeared in 1761, and its embodiment of Rousseau's system of thought, in which feelings and intellect are intertwined, redefined the function and form of fiction for decades. As the characters negotiate a complex maze of passion and virtue, their purity of soul and honest morality reveal, as Rousseau writes in his preface, "the subtleties of heart of which this work is full."
A comprehensive introduction and careful annotations make this novel accessible to contemporary readers, both as an embodiment of Rousseau's philosophy and as a portrayal of the tension and power inherent in domestic life.
From their introduction in 1791 as an expression of the sovereignty of the people through the early 1900s, argues Donovan, juries often acted against the wishes of the political and judicial authorities, despite repeated governmental attempts to manipulate their composition. High acquittal rates for both political and nonpolitical crimes were in part due to juror resistance to the harsh and rigid punishments imposed by the Napoleonic Penal Code, Donovan explains.
Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism in Modern France
At a fascinating moment in French intellectual history, an interest in matters occult was not equivalent to a rejection of scientific thought; participants in séances and magic rituals were seekers after experimental data as well as spiritual truth. A young astronomy student wrote of his quest: "I am not in the presence or under the influence of any evil spirit: I study Spiritism as I study mathematics." He did not see himself as an ecstatic visionary but rather as a sober observer. For him, the darkened room of occult practice was as much laboratory as church.
In an evocative history of alternative religious practices in France in the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, John Warne Monroe tells the interconnected stories of three movements-Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism. Adherents of these groups, Monroe reveals, attempted to "modernize" faith by providing empirical support for metaphysical concepts. Instead of trusting theological speculation about the nature of the soul, these believers attempted to gather tangible evidence through Mesmeric experiments, séances, and ceremonial magic. While few French people were active Mesmerists, Spiritists, or Occultists, large segments of the educated general public were familiar with these movements and often regarded them as fascinating expressions of the "modern condition," a notable contrast to the Catholicism and secular materialism that prevailed in their culture.
Featuring eerie spirit photographs, amusing Daumier lithographs, and a posthumous autograph from Voltaire, as well as extensive documentary evidence, Laboratories of Faith gives readers a sense of what being in a séance or a secret-society ritual might actually have felt like and why these feelings attracted participants. While they never achieved the transformation of human consciousness for which they strove, these thinkers and believers nevertheless pioneered a way of "being religious" that has become an enduring part of the Western cultural vocabulary.
Maurice Blanchot's Exilic Writing
Writing, Maurice Blanchot taught us, is not something that is in one's power. It is, rather, a search for a non-power that refuses mastery, order, and all established authority. For Blanchot, this search was guided by an enigmatic exigency, an arresting rupture, and a promise of justice that required endless contestation of every usurping authority, an endless going out toward the other."The step/not beyond" ("le pas au-delà") names this exilic passage as it took form in his influential later work, but not as a theme or concept, since its "step" requires a transgression of discursive limits and any grasp afforded by the labor of the negative. Thus, to follow "the step/not beyond" is to follow a kind of event in writing, to enter a movement that is never quite captured in any defining or narrating account.Last Steps attempts a practice of reading that honors the exilic exigency even as it risks drawing Blanchot's reflective writings and fragmentary narratives into the articulation of a reading. It brings to the fore Blanchot's exceptional contributions to contemporary thought on the ethico-political relation, language, and the experience of human finitude. It offers the most sustained interpretation of The Step Not Beyond available, with attentive readings of a number of major texts, as well as chapters on Levinas and Blanchot's relation to Judaism. Its trajectory of reading limns the meaning of a question from The Infinite Conversation that implies an opening and a singular affirmation rather than a closure: "How had he come to will the interruption of the discourse?"