Hé bien! La Guerre: Situating Les Liaisons dangereuses in the Culture Wars of Pre-Revolutionary France
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This essay reads Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) as an attempt to reconcile both Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment ideals and thus as a commentary on the culture wars of Pre-Revolutionary France. I argue that, in the character of Mme de Rosemonde, the author Choderlos de Laclos (1741–1803) depicts an alternative to an all-out conflict between opposing secular and religious and Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment ideals. In this respect, Rosemonde’s actions and words represent a striking contrast to the failed attempts by many of the main characters to resolve the tensions between an array of philosophical perspectives from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This article challenges those literary critics who dismissed Rosemonde as a minor character who represents an archaic and ineffective way of thinking. To demonstrate the novelty of Rosemonde’s perspective and methods, I also examine in some detail the characters of La Présidente de Tourvel and Mme de Merteuil.


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