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The Bad Taste of Others: The Construction of French Cultural Standards in the Eighteenth Century

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Guest lecture by Jennifer Tsien (Assistant Professor at University of Virginia) about her new book "The Bad Taste of Others"

Was
  • Vortrag
Wann 18.12.2009
von 04:00 bis 06:00
Wo Institut français Hamburg, Heimhuder Straße 55, 20148 Hamburg
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Kontakttelefon +49-40-74041888 (Voltaire-Gesellschaft) or +49-40-4133250 (Institut français)
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The difference between good and bad taste was as important to philosophers of the eighteenth century as the difference between good and evil or between truth and illusion. But what distinguished good from bad taste? and who set these standards? In my book, The Bad Taste of Others, I argue that writers such as Dubos, Montesquieu, and Voltaire established this distinction as a way to rein in the potentially chaotic preferences of the reading public. These writers were so troubled by the growing numbers of readers in all segments of society that they strove to impose their exclusive right to judge literature "correctly." Specifically, they wielded the powerful insult of bad taste in order to stamp out those literary trends of which they disapproved. In this sense, I challenge the commonly held view of the Enlightenment's optimism about the spread of learning.

This scholarly monograph serves two purposes. It is, first of all, an introduction to the concept of taste in eighteenth-century France, a centrally important topic which has been virtually ignored for the last century. Secondly, it rediscovers a number of entertaining and provocative works, such as magazines and riddles, which were immensely popular in the eighteenth century but which have since been disdained because of their authors' alleged bad taste. As Robert Darnton and Joan De Jean have done in very different ways, I wish to shed light on some areas of eighteenth-century literature which our current canon has left in the dark.

The talk will be held in french language.

About the lecturer

Jennifer TsienJennifer Tsien is Assistant Professor at the Department of French Language and Literature of the University of Virginia. She owns a Master degree from University of Virginia (1995) and a Ph.D. degree from Princeton University (2001). Her research focus is on 18th century literature, specifically parody, satirical writings and aesthetics as well as the works of Voltaire generally. Currently she is doing research on Louisiana in the 18th century.

Publications:

  • Voltaire and the Temple of Bad Taste: A Study of La Pucelle d'Orléans, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford 2003.
  • "La Taxinomie des êtres imaginaires dans les notes de la Pucelle d'Orléans, in Les Notes de Voltaire". Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 2003:03. Voltaire Foundation, Oxford 2003.
  • The Bad Taste of Others: The Construction of French Cultural Standards in the Eighteenth Century, is under review by University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
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