Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book owes many debts of sincere gratitude. I want to thank Josué Harari, Marie-Hélène Huet, and Robert Tomlinson, who read the manuscript at various stages and whose generous suggestions were of immense help. I would also like to thank Tim Clark, Tom Crow, and Jacqueline Lichtenstein, colleagues or former colleagues, whose fine example and good counsel helped me think through what I wanted to say....

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

This study of eighteenth-century French literature and painting argues for the importance to Enlightenment culture, to its tensions, contradictions, and achievements, of a new sense of existence within a present freed from the weight of past and future. This attention to what I am calling the moment established that period as a crucial hiatus in the refusals of the present enforced by the ideologically different yet structurally similar doctrines of...

Part One: Writing the Moment

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1 Versions of the Moment

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pp. 11-25

What historians of France refer to as the eighteenth century most often finds itself deprived of nearly a quarter of its expected lifespan. Traditionally, it has been defined as beginning in 1715 with the death of Louis XIV and ending in 1789 with the coming of the Revolution. While few would quibble over the status of 1789 as setting off what followed from what preceded, the status of 1715 as a valid point of demarcation seems from today's perspective...

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2 Lahontan and the Moment Between Cultures

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pp. 26-44

After ten years as a soldier in Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and Newfoundland, Louis-Armand de Lorn d'Arce, better known as the baron de Lahontan, deserted his post and returned to Europe. In the early years of the eighteenth century, he published three works describing his life and travels in Canada, the Indian society he discovered there, and how he, as a European, found himself redefined by those experiences. Few writers tell us more about...

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3 Diderot and the Epicurean Moment

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pp. 45-57

It is frequently pointed out that the emergence of "happiness" as an object of legitimate human pursuit is one of the Enlightenment's most important legacies. It is less often recognized that this shift from the spiritual to the terrestrial brought with it a new attitude toward temporality, a new way of understanding our existence within time. Only when, as in the brief epigraph quoted above, the desire for happiness is accompanied by a second,...

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4 Graffigny's Epiphany of the Moment

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pp. 58-81

Franchise de Graffigny's Lettres d'une Pemvienne speaks perhaps more eloquently than any other eighteenth-century novel about the convoluted relations between experience and expression, reading and writing, reception and cultural history. First published in 1747, this novel consists of letters written by Zilia, an Inca virgin of the Temple of the Sun, to Aza, the Inca prince she was to marry on the very day the Spanish conquistadors invaded...

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5 Rousseau's Moment Beyond History

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pp. 82-100

Jean-Jacques Rousseau provides, both in his life and his writings, a case study in the new importance the compact and subversive temporality of the moment would assume in that rethinking of the human condition we refer to as the Enlightenment. From his first attempt in January of 1762 at what was to become his life-long endeavor of putting down on paper the exculpatory story of his life and of how he came to be who he was, the then forty-nine year old Rousseau traced the shape of his life-story to the overwhelming...

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6 Casanova and the Moment of Chance

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pp. 101-126

Why is it that, unlike Rousseau's Confessions, Casanova's fascinating and perplexing Histoire de ma vie rarely receives serious consideration in studies of autobiography as a genre? To some extent, this is the predictable result of the discomfort many critics have felt with the sexual candor and disabused frankness concerning human motivations that are so integral to Casanova's vision. At a deeper level, however, it is the place of honor Casanova grants...

Part Two: Painting the Moment

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7 Roger de Piles and the Moment's Glance

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pp. 129-147

Having concluded my examination of literature with Casanova inviting us to share with him a laugh provoked by the vividly remembered tableaus he conjures up from his past life, I would now like to turn to a direct consideration of painting, to the shape of the moment's role in the theory and practice of image making. An illustrious line of the Enlightenment's most important estheticians and artists anticipated Casanova's call to look at the...

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8 Du Bos, Poussin, and the Force of the Moment

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pp. 148-163

The primacy of the moment, of the beholder's immediate reaction to the artistic object, found an unexpected confirmation in Jean-Baptiste Du Bos's highly influential Critical Reflections on Poetry and Pointing of 1719. Du Bos, attempting to grasp the entire enterprise of Western art, offers within this work an ambitious and universalizing analysis of the esthetic response. His examples and arguments encompass literary and pictorial works ranging...

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9 Watteau's Incarnate Moment

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pp. 164-183

Antoine Watteau's changing fortunes over the last two and a half centuries present a number of intriguing paradoxes. When he died in 1721 at the age of thirty-seven, he counted among a small number of painters who could be described as "self-commissioning." Whatever he produced was so sought after that he was effectively independent of the parallel patronage networks of the crown, the church and the growing Parisian private sector. This, coupled...

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10 Chardin and the Moment Beyond Nature

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pp. 184-202

The organizing trope within most art historical criticism of Jean-Simeon Chardin is the assumption that there were two all but distinct Chardins: the Chardin who painted images of fixed, immobile physical objects and the Chardin who painted domestic scenes teeming with the bustle of everyday life. On the one hand, there is Chardin the painter of hauntingly powerful still-lifes that range from compositions of fowl and small animals arranged...

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11 Boucher, Fragonard, and the Seductions of the Moment

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pp. 203-238

Having looked at how Chardin's subtle foregrounding of the moment redrew the boundaries between the principal genres in which he worked, I would like to turn now to the two painters who, in terms of their style and subject matter, are most closely associated with the celebration of the moment: Francois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard....

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12 Greuze and the Moment Foreclosed

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pp. 239-272

It is difficult to imagine a symbiosis more complete than that between Jean- Baptiste Greuze as painter and Denis Diderot as art critic. It is the rare art historical study of Greuze that does not rely heavily on Diderot's analyses of the paintings Greuze exhibited at the biennial Salons between 1759 and 1769. In the other direction, it was in large part his enthusiasm for Greuze's style of painting that shaped Diderot's art criticism. His amalgam of impassioned...

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Conclusion

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pp. 273-276

We have seen how, across a wide sweep of its literary and artistic culture, the French Enlightenment was marked by a new and defining awareness of the moment. In its many forms, the moment's temporality of the caesura set the tone for an age that affirmed itself against the reigning orthodoxies of church, monarchy, and patriarchal culture. The voices of the moment spoke instead of other ways of looking at individual happiness, political freedom, and the prerogatives of private life....

Notes

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pp. 277-290

Index

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pp. 291-294