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date: 26 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores what is at stake for supposedly ‘pre-romantic’ thinkers in France, and try to understand what ‘pre-romanticism’ is. It argues that many of the most resonant themes associated with Romanticism, already compellingly and unflinchingly explored by Diderot, It requires us to abandon the familiar models of straightforward transmission and influence which we can fruitfully use in the case of Rousseau, because with Diderot we simply don’t have all the evidence about who said what to whom, or who read what when. Instead, we have sudden manifestations of interest, such as Goethe’s 1805 translation of the Neveu de Rameau, its first publication in any language. We also have to abandon the idea of a literary history in which Classicism dominated then faded to make way for the Enlightenment, which dominated and then faded to make way for Romanticism. This model is too simplistic, although its very convenience explains its existence.

Keywords: Pre-romanticism, Diderot, Enlightenment, literary history, materialism, consciousness, humanism, France

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