Diderot, Rousseau and the Politics of the Arts in the Enlightenment

BookDiderot, Rousseau and the Politics of the Arts in the Enlightenment

Diderot, Rousseau and the Politics of the Arts in the Enlightenment

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2023:01


January 9th, 2023





In mid-eighteenth-century Paris, the encyclopedists launched a campaign to radically redefine the public dimension of all ‘imaginative’ arts, starting with music – with the querelle des bouffons – then theatre, the novel and finally the visual arts. Diderot, Rousseau and the Politics of the Arts in the Enlightenment exposes the correlation between the prejudices and hierarchies of the political and social system of the time and what d’Alembert calls ‘literary superstitions’. The book reconstructs the role of Diderot and Rousseau, frères ennemis, as they engaged in a dispute that was above all else political, despite revolving entirely around forms of artistic expression. Throwing a light on this important cultural event is all the more necessary because the essentially political dimension of Diderot’s Salons has since the nineteenth-century been completely obscured from view. Indeed, at first misunderstood and then totally neglected, for over two centuries their true significance has been systematically ignored by the aesthetic-idealist school of criticism.

Author Information

GERARDO TOCCHINI is Full-Professor in Modern History at the Ca 'Foscari University of Venice. His research area is the social history of early modern European culture from the sixteenth to the late nineteenth century. He is the author of I Fratelli d’Orfeo (1998); Minacciare con le immagini. Tintoretto (2010); La politica della rappresentazione (20122); Su Greuze e Rousseau (2016).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Part I: The Beginnings: Music, Theatre, the Novel
Chapter 1. The problem of the theatrical Ancien régime: Musical opera
Chapter 2. Stage theatre: The real substance of the dispute                    
Chapter 3: A ‘politics’ of the novel and the chasm between ancient and modern
Chapter 4. The function and destiny of badly written theatre
Part II: The Subverters of the Artistic Culture of the Ancien régime
Chapter 5: The Moment of the Fine Arts
Chapter 6: Optical Illusions, and a Necessary Premise
Chapter 7: Diderot and the Art of Politics for All
Chapter 8: Painters and genres: norms, reality, the response of the market
Chapter 9: New Spaces, Old Obligations
Part III: In the Infernal Workshop of the Salons of Painting
Chapter 10: Diderot, Rousseau and the ‘Citizen’ Artist
Chapter 11: Towards a ‘Politics’ of the Sublime
Chapter 12: The Dignity of the Masses and the Eternal ‘Lie’ of Allegory
Chapter 13: All that Others never Wrote
Part IV: Finale   
Chapter 14: Concluding remarks and epilogue