Enlightened Pleasures


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Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism

Thomas M. Kavanagh

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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.

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.

"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

"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

"Scholarly, challenging, and pleasant at the same time."—Pierre Saint-Amand, Eighteenth Century Fiction

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 in the Philosophy category

ISBN: 9780300140941
Publication Date: March 16, 2010
264 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
21 b/w illus.
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