Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism

Overview

Novelists, artists, and philosophers of the eighteenth century understood pleasure as a virtue—a gift to be shared with one’s companion, with a reader, or with the public. In this daring new book, Thomas Kavanagh overturns the prevailing scholarly tradition that views eighteenth-century France primarily as the incubator of the Revolution.  Instead, Kavanagh demonstrates how the art and literature of the era put the experience of pleasure at the center of the cultural agenda, leading to advances in ...

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Overview

Novelists, artists, and philosophers of the eighteenth century understood pleasure as a virtue—a gift to be shared with one’s companion, with a reader, or with the public. In this daring new book, Thomas Kavanagh overturns the prevailing scholarly tradition that views eighteenth-century France primarily as the incubator of the Revolution.  Instead, Kavanagh demonstrates how the art and literature of the era put the experience of pleasure at the center of the cultural agenda, leading to advances in both ethics and aesthetics.

Kavanagh shows that pleasure is not necessarily hedonistic or opposed to Enlightenment ideals in general; rather, he argues that the pleasure of individuals is necessary for the welfare of their community.

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Editorial Reviews

Elena Russo
"Informed by rigorous and original philosophical interpretations yet written in a style that is incisive, fluid and swift, this book is exactly what a book on pleasure should be: it leaves us completely fulfilled yet asking for more."—Elena Russo, Johns Hopkins University
Jay Caplan
"Kavanagh makes a persuasive case for putting the literature and art of the Enlightenment in France in the context of Epicurean and Stoic philosophy."—Jay Caplan, Amherst College
Eighteenth Century Fiction - Pierre Saint-Amand
"Scholarly, challenging, and pleasant at the same time."—Pierre Saint-Amand, Eighteenth Century Fiction
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Thomas M. Kavanagh, the Augustus R. Street Professor of French and department chair at Yale University, is the author of Dice, Cards, Wheels: A Different History of French Culture. He lives in Woodbridge, CT.

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Table of Contents

Introduction A new Epicureanism 1

1 The pleasures of failure : Jourdan's Le Guerrier philosophe 10

2 Mirroring pleasure : La Morliere's Angola 31

3 Life-writing as Epicurean allegory : Therese philosophe 52

4 The esthetics of pleasure : Du Bos and Boucher 71

5 Rousseau's eudemony of liberty 103

6 Laclos' anthropology of pleasure 128

7 Recasting the Epicurean novel : Mirabeau's La Morale des sens 149

8 Theaters of pleasure 171

Conclusion From pleasure to happiness 207

Notes 219

Illustration credits 243

Index 245

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