The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment

The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment

The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment

The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment

Excerpt

This book is a cultural history of the Enlightenment as a moment in the history of the Republic of Letters. Like France, the Republic of Letters is a polity with a much-contested history. François Furet, Lynn Hunt, and Keith Baker argue for collapsing the distinction between discourse and political reality if we are to understand such political constructions as the French monarchy, the Old Regime, and the Revolution. In these terms, the Republic of Letters has the same status as the monarchy: in the eighteenth century, it too had a political culture constructed out of discursive practices and institutions that shaped the actions, verbal and otherwise, of the people to whose lives it gave structure, meaning, and purpose. Jürgen Habermas and Reinhart Koselleck have argued that in the eighteenth century the Republic of Letters constituted the public sphere that became the ground for political discourse that contested the closed culture of the monarchy . As the history of the monarchy and of the political cultures of the Old Regime and Revolution are revised, the Republic of Letters emerges as a polity parallel to the monarchy but entwined with . . .

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