The shift in the interpretation of eighteenth-century European culture over the last century provokes the questions: what meaning can be ascribed to that notion at the beginning of the twenty-first century? and how should we see Diderot’s response to it?
This collection of essays re-examines Diderot’s uniquely rich relationship with the intellectual life of European nations, and his crucial role in focusing, connecting and spreading its many strands. While sharing certain Eurocentric prejudices, he held a more liberated view of a common humanity and the universal nature of human aspirations. These essays explore his interest in those hybrid, borderline zones, where systems, hierarchies, and national or disciplinary boundaries come under productive stress. What emerges is the irreducibility of his writing, which resists incorporation into any officially sanctioned canon. The Diderot being created by today’s scholars is truly protean, not so much French, or even European, as global, a cultural icon for the modern age.