Staël's Philosophy of the Passions

Tili Boon Cuillé and Karyna Szmurlo (Eds.)

Sensibility, Society, and the Sister Arts

2013
346 pages
$90.00
ISBN 9781611484724
Transits

Now in paperback

Sensibility, or the capacity to feel, played a vital role in philosophical reflection about the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts in eighteenth-century France. Yet scholars have privileged the Marquis de Sade's vindication of physiological sensibility as the logical conclusion of Enlightenment over Germaine de Staël's exploration of moral sensibility's potential for reform and renewal that paved the way for Romanticism. This volume of essays showcases Staël's contribution to the "affective revolution" in Europe, investigating the personal and political circumstances that informed her theory of the passions and the social and aesthetic innovations to which it gave rise. Contributors move seamlessly between her political, philosophical, and fictional works, attentive to the relationship between emotion and cognition and aware of the coherence of her thought on an individual, national, and international scale. They first examine the significance Staël attributed to pity, happiness, melancholy, and enthusiasm in The Influence of the Passions as she witnessed revolutionary strife and envisioned the new republic. They then explore her development of a cosmopolitan aesthetic, in such works as On Literature, Corinne, or Italy, On Germany, and The Spirit of Translation, that transcended traditional generic, national, and linguistic boundaries. Finally, they turn to her contributions to the visual and musical arts as she deftly negotiated the transition from a Neoclassical to a Romantic aesthetic. Staël's Philosophy of the Passions concludes that, rather than founding a republic based on the rights of man, Staël's reflection fostered international communities of women (artists, models, and collectors; authors, performers, and spectators), enabling them to participate in the re-articulation of socio-cultural values in the wake of the French Revolution.

Contributors: Tili Boon Cuillé, Catherine Dubeau, Nanette Le Coat, Christine Dunn Henderson, Karen de Bruin, M. Ione Crummy, Jennifer Law-Sullivan, Lauren Fortner Ravalico, C. C. Wharram, Kari Lokke, Susan Tenenbaum, Mary D. Sheriff, Heather Belnap Jensen, Fabienne Moore, Julia Effertz

Reviews
"For its ability to offer entry into Staël's work from a variety of perspectives and disciplines, this is an extremely valuable resource for understanding the evolution of intellectual thought at the beginning of the 19th century. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
--S. Whidden, Choice Reviews, July 2013

About the editors:

Tili Boon Cuillé is an Associate Professor of French and co-coordinator of the Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Salon at Washington University in St. Louis. Her area of specialization is eighteenth-century French literature, philosophy, and the arts. She is the author of Narrative Interludes: Musical Tableaux in Eighteenth-Century French Texts (Torronto University Press, 2006). She has contributed to Forum for Modern Language Studies, Opera Quarterly, and Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture as well as the collected volumes The Super-Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much (Voltaire Foundation, 2010), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Ashgate, 2006) and Phrase and Subject: Studies in Music and Literature (Legenda, 2006). She is currently working on a book-length project entitled Divining Nature: French Ventures in Fiction, Imagery, and Stagecraft.

Karyna Szmurlo is a Professor of French in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities at Clemson University. She has published on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women writers, and modern literature. Her research is strongly interdisciplinary, combining history, feminist theory, philosophy of language, and the arts. She is the editor of Germaine de Staël: Forging a Politics of Mediation (Voltaire Foundation, 2011), collaborating editor of Madame de Staël et les études féminines/Autour de Madame Necker (Champion, 2006), editor of The Novel's Seductions: Staël's Corinne in Critical Enquiry (Bucknell University Press, 1999), and coeditor of Germaine de Staël: Crossing the Borders (Rutgers University Press, 1991). She serves on the Executive Board of the Germaine de Staël Society for Revolutionary and Romantic Studies, an allied organization of the American Association for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

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