Advertisement

Introduction

Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History book series (CIH)

Abstract

The collective imaginary of eighteenth-century France was populated—one might even say haunted—by a vast array of exotic Others. Throughout the literature of the period, foreign characters, including a Huron chief (Lahontan), Persian gentlemen (Montesquieu), Chinese mandarins (d’Argens), an Incan princess (Mme. de Graffigny), and a Tahitian elder (Diderot), drew contrasts between French Old Regime society and the customs and mores of their supposed homelands, usually to the detriment of the former. Political theorists used crosscultural comparisons, invoking Oriental despotism (Montesquieu again), the noble savage (Rousseau), or the Confucian bureaucratic order (Quesnay and the Physiocrats) to make broader points about government, natural law, and human nature. French readers avidly devoured published narratives of travels to distant lands, and men of letters compiled, recycled, and commented on such texts in a growing corpus of cross-cultural discourse.1 In addition to these textual representations, French learned society and the broader public alike marveled at exotic visitors to France, such as the Ottoman ambassador Mehmed Efendi, the albino African child identified only as the nègre blanc, and perhaps most of all, the Tahitian Aotourou, brought to France by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in the course of his voyage around the world.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Distant Land Discursive Field Enlightenment Project Colonial Empire 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    For the eighteenth-century fascination with travel literature, see René Pomeau, “Voyages et lumières dans la littérature française du XVIIIe siède” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 57 (1967), 1269–1289;Google Scholar
  2. Percy G. Adams, Travelers and Travel Liars, 1660–1800 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1962);Google Scholar
  3. and the essays in Larry Wolff and Marco Cipollini, eds., The Anthropology of the Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    On this point, see the essays in Christopher Fox, Roy Porter, and Robert Wokler, Inventing Human Science: Eighteenth Century Domains (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 3.
    For a summary and refutation of this argument, see Peter Gay, The Party of Humanity (New York: Norton, 1971), especially 262–290.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979), 3, 204.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    An overview of the historiographical and theoretical debates can be found in a recent review essay: Karen O’Brien, “The Return of the Enlightenment,” American Historical Review 115:5 (December 2010), 1426–1435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 6.
    For example, John Gray has charged the Enlightenment with an “assault on cultural difference,” leading to the “cultural impoverishment” of humankind through globalization. See John Gray, Enlightenment’s Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), viii, 106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 7.
    Kathleen Glenister Roberts, Alterity and Narrative: Stories and the Negotiation of Western Identities (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007), 4.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origins of Inequality” [1755], in The First and Second Discourses, trans. Roger D. Masters (Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin’s, 1964), 212–213.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, “Reflexions sur les Pensées philosophiques de Diderot,” in Gustav Schelle ed., Oeuvres (Paris: Felix Alcan, 1913), 95.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Jürgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987);Google Scholar
  13. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990).Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Richard Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 312–313.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    James Schmidt, “What Enlightenment Project?” Political Theory 28:6 (2000), 737–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. See also Lynn Festa and Daniel Carey, “What Is Postcolonial Enlightenment?” in Daniel Carey and Lynn Festa, eds., The Postcolonial Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Colonialism and Postcolonial Theory (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 1–33.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    For the importance of national distinctions, see O’Brien, “The Return of the Enlightenment.” For the distinction between “moderate” and “radical” Enlightenment, see Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. For the distinctiveness of the “colonial Enlightenment,” see Malick Ghachem, Sovereignty and Slavery in the Age of Revolution: Haitian Variations on a Metropolitan Theme (Stanford University Dissertation, 2001).Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    Daniel Gordon, “On the Supposed Obsolescence of the French Enlightenment,” in Daniel Gordon, ed., Postmodernism and the Enlightenment: New Perspectives in Eighteenth-Century French History (New York: Routledge, 2001), 212.Google Scholar
  20. For this distinction between the “spirit of system” and the “systematic spirit,” see Ernst Cassirer, trans. Fritz Koellns and James Pettegrove, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1932; repr., Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), especially vi–viii, 8–9, and 104–108.Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    Robert Wuthnow, Communities of Discourse: Ideology and Social Structure in the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and European Socialism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 13.Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment against Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 260.Google Scholar
  23. 17.
    Ursula Vogel, “The Skeptical Enlightenment: Philosopher Travellers Look Back at Europe,” in Norman Geras and Robert Wokler, eds., The Enlightenment and Modernity (Basingstroke and London: Macmillan, 2000), 4.Google Scholar
  24. 18.
    On these topics, see Jeremy Popkin, News and Politics in the Age of Revolution: Jean deLuzac’s Gazette de Leyde (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989);Google Scholar
  25. Robert Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982);Google Scholar
  26. and Arlette Farge, Subversive Words: Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century France (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), respectively.Google Scholar
  27. 19.
    The title of a recent edited volume makes the point: Felicity Nussbaum, ed. The Global Eighteenth Century (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  28. A recent survey text that emphasizes the importance of globalization to Enlightenment philosophy and culture is Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  29. 20.
    For the enduring relevance of the Enlightenment to contemporary cultural debates, see David A. Hollinger, “The Enlightenment and the Genealogy of Cultural Conflict in the United States,” in Keith Michael Baker and Peter Hanns Reill, eds., What’s Left of Enlightenment: A Postmodern Question (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 7–18.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Allen Harvey 2012

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations