Dan Edelstein - "Where are Voltaire's Letters Concerning the English Nation? Maps, Networks, and Literary History."
Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Rochambeau House Music Room
A long-standing narrative holds that Voltaire’s two-year exposure to English ideas transformed the Frenchman into a philosophe, as evidenced by the publication of his Letters Concerning the English Nation, better known as the Lettres philosophiques (1734). On the actual map of Voltaire’s correspondence, however, England is a “coldspot,” a place with which little correspondence was exchanged. In this talk, I explain this discrepancy by arguing that the England Voltaire cared about only existed in the past – and, what’s more, that it was in many respects a reflection of his beloved France.
Dan Edelstein is Professor of French and (by courtesy) History at Stanford University, where he is also the W. Warren Shelden University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. In 2014-15, he holds the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professorship for Distinguished Teaching at the Center for Human Values in Princeton. He is the author of The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (Chicago, 2008), and of The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (Chicago, 2009). He has also edited a volume of essays on The Super-Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much (Voltaire Foundation, 2010), and is a principal investigator for the “Mapping the Republic of Letters” project at Stanford.