Humanities West Voltaire release 10_5_07

Voltaire and the French Enlightenment

October 5-6, 2007
Herbst Theatre,  401 Van Ness Avenue,  San Francisco

Listen to audio from this program

Prolific author, philosopher, social reformer, and successful businessman, Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Enlightenment as well as a friend and advisor to some of the most important monarchs of Europe, including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia. A fierce critic of the Church, religion, and aristocratic privilege, he offended many powerful interests, but also helped lay the foundations of a modern society based on the rule of law and reason.

On Friday night Keith Baker, the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor in Humanities and the Jean-Paul Gimon Director of the France-Stanford Center of Stanford University, will discuss “Voltaire’s Wager,” in which Voltaire represents the epitome of the new spirit of secular engagement with the world we know as the Enlightenment. Baker will suggest the terms of Voltaire’s wager on humanity, the challenges it faced, and its long-term implications.

Maria Cheremeteff, Head of the Art History Department at City College of San Francisco and Lecturer at both the De Young and Legion of Honor Museums in San Francisco, in an illustrated lecture will demonstrate how paintings by Jacques-Louis David in the Neoclassical style become a symbol of the new rational order of the French Republic. The Republic required a new set of images and allegories to propagate the enlightened notion of representational rule. These ideas found voice in David’s paintings. His apprropriation of Greek and Roman subject matter and the new classical style he developed ideally suited to promote the values of liberty, equality, civic duty, and sacrifice.

On Saturday morning David Bodanis, award-winning author and Lecturer at Oxford University, will discuss his book Passionate Minds. This is the fascinating account of Voltaire, his mistress, Émilie du Châtelet, who was a brilliant scientist in her own right, and their joint intellectual projects. Roger Hahn, Emeritus Professor at UC Berkeley, will speak on Voltaire as author, philosopher, and supreme intellectual influence of the eighteenth century: his ideas, influences, and writings. On Saturday afternoon David Morris, acclaimed cellist and violist, will perform the works of Rameau on viola de gamba, along with David Wilson on violin and Katherine Heater on the harpischord. Kip Cranna, Musical Administrator of the San Francisco Opera, will discuss the composers of the Enlightenment.

Moderator:  Roger Hahn, Professor Emeritus of History University of California Berkeley

Friday October 5, 2007

The French Enlightenment

Keynote Address   Voltaire’s Wager          
As poet, playwright, philosopher, and pamphleteer, Voltaire defined and epitomized the new spirit of secular engagement with the world we know as the Enlightenment. Keith M. Baker (Stanford University) will suggest the terms of his wager on humanity, the challenges it faced, and its long-term implications

Lecture  Jacques-Louis David and the Iconography of the Revolution
Maria Cheremeteff (City College of San Francisco) will illustrate how paintings by David in the Neoclassical style become a symbol of the new rational order of the French Republic. The Republic required a new set of images and allegories to propagate the enlightened notion of representational rule. These ideas found voice in paintings by Jacques-Louis David. Appropriation of Greek and Roman subject matter and the new classical style he developed were ideally suited to promote the values of liberty, equality, civic duty and sacrifice.

Saturday October 6, 2007

Voltaire and Other Thinkers

Lecture  Émilie du Châtelet
Émilie du Châtelet was a fencer, gambler, brilliant mathematician and passionate lover. David Bodanis (Oxford University, Author of Passionate Minds) will discuss how she and her close friend Voltaire helped create the French Enlightenment.

Lecture  Voltaire’s Views on Religion
Voltaire was a major intellectual influence of the eighteenth century. Roger Hahn (University of California, Berkeley) will discuss how one squares Voltaire’s taunts against Judaism with his campaign for tolerance.

Performance
Katherine Heater(harpsichord), David Morris(viola de gamba), and David Wilson(violin), playPièce de claveçin en concert #1 in C minor by Jean Philippe Rameau.

Lecture and Demonstration   Opera and the Enlightenment: Trusting the Happy Ending
Voltaire had a profound influence on opera in the Enlightenment era and beyond, significantly impacting the intellectual and political ideals of composers and librettists. Foremost was Voltaire’s concept of just government embodied in the “Enlightened Despot”–one who employs rational judgment to rule wisely, fostering tolerance, freedom of the press, and property rights, while promoting the arts, science, and education. Closely allied with this theory was the principle of a happy dramatic outcome in opera through the triumph of human reason over the forces of cruelty, hatred, and revenge. San Francisco Opera’s Musical Administrator  Clifford (Kip) Cranna will explore these themes using video examples to illustrate how Voltairean thought influenced opera composers like Rameau, Handel, Mozart, and Rossini, and discussing the ways in which contemporary opera directors deal with Enlightenment ideals

Panel Discussion
Moderator Roger Hahn will lead a panel discussion with questions from the audience.

Presenters

Presenter Information Unavailable

Resource Materials

Voltaire was a popular and prolific writer whose output would fill 100 volumes, but for the modern reader his short satirical novella, Candide, is by far the most widely read of his works. It is available in many different editions, but we would recommend a version that supplements the bare text with additional material providing some of the historical and cultural context for his biting humor. Two good choices are Candide (Enriched Classics Series) (Mass Market Paperback) by Voltaire (Author) or Candide (A Norton Critical Edition) (Paperback) by Voltaire (Author), Robert M. Adams (Editor, Translator). For those who prefer listening to their literature, Candide is also available as an audio book: Candide (Unabridged Classics) [AUDIOBOOK] [CD] (Audio CD) by Voltaire (Author), Tom Whitworth (Narrator). If you would like a broader sampling of Voltaire’s work, try The Portable Voltaire (The Viking Portable Library) (Paperback).

The Extended Bibliography below lists many excellent books on the broader topic of the French and European Enlightenment, but it is not easy to find a short, readable overview aimed at the general reader. A good starting point is The Enlightenment (Studies in European History) (Paperback) by Roy Porter, a 70-page summary that provides historical context as well as a review of how attitudes and perspectives about the Enlightenment have changed over the years. The book also includes an extensive annotated bibliography. A short overview, Age of Enlightenment (Great Ages of Man), Time-Life Books, 1966) by leading Enlightenment scholar, Peter Gay, was part of a popular Time-Life series, and may still be found.

Three of our speakers in the upcoming program have published books that might interest attendees. David Bodanis has written Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Émilie du Châtelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings(Hardcover), the fascinating story of Voltaire and his mistress, the brilliant Émilie du Châtelet, and their joint intellectual projects. (Note that the paperback edition, with a more subdued subtitle, is scheduled for release on October 2, 2007, may be pre-ordered on Amazon, and will be offered for sale during the program break.) Roger Hahn has published Pierre Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist (Hardcover), a biography of a prominent Enlightenment scientist. Keith Baker’sInventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Ideas in Context) (Paperback) is a collection of essays exploring the ideological origins of the French Revolution.

—Chuck Sieloff, PhD

Ayer, A.J. Voltaire. New York: Random House, 1986
Baker, Keith Michael. Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990
Bates, David W. Enlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in France. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002.
Bird, Stephen. Reinventing Voltaire: The Politics of Commemoration in Nineteenth-century France.Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2000.
Bodanis, David. Passionate Minds: Émilie du Châtelet, Voltaire and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment. New York: Random House, October 2007.
Bodanis, David. Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Émilie du Châtelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings. New York: Crown Publishing, 2006.
Bottiglia, William F., ed. Voltaire: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
Censer, Jack R. The French Press in the Age of Enlightenment. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.
Charlton, D. G. New Images of the Natural in France: A Study of European Cultural History 1750-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Crow, Thomas E. Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
Diderot (ed). L’ Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers 1751-80.
Diderot, Denis, Tr. Tancock, Leonard. Rameau’s Nephew and D’Alembert’s Dream. New York: Penguin Group, 1976.
Gay, Peter. Age of Enlightenment. New York: Time Life Books, 1966.
Gay, Peter. The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. The Rise of Modern Paganism. New York: WW Norton, 1977
Gay, Peter. Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom. New York: WW Norton, 1977.
Gay, Peter. Voltaire’s Politics: The Poet as Realist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959. Second edition; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.
Goodman, Dena. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Gordon, Susan. Montesquieu: The French Philosopher Who Shaped Modern Government. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2005.
Hahn, Roger. Pierre Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist. Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 2005.
Hahn, Roger. The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution. The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666 -1803. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
Hazard, P. The European Mind: The Critical Years, 1690–1715, tr. 1953, repr. 1963. European Thought in the Eighteenth Century, tr. 1954, repr. 1963. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953.
Hesse, Carla Alison. Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.
Hesse, Carla Alison. The Other Enlightenment; How French Women Became Modern. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Kavanagh, Thomas M. Esthetic of the Moment:  Literature and Art in the French Enlightenment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
Kors, Alan Charles. ed. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002.
Lanson, Gustave. Voltaire. 1906. Tr. Robert Waggoner; introduction by Peter Gay. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 1966.
Mason, Hayden. Voltaire: A Biography, Baltimore: The John’s Hopkins Press, 1981.
Maza, Sarah. Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Celebres of Prerevolutionary France. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.
Mitford, Nancy. Voltaire in Love. New York: Harper, 1957. Paperback edition: New York: Carroll and Graff, 1999.
Roche, Daniel. France in the Enlightenment, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (compiled by John Hope Mason). The Indispensible Rousseau: Inequality. London, Melbourne and New York: Quarter Books, 1979.
Sheriff, Mary D. Exceptional Women: Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Torrey, Norman. The Spirit of Voltaire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938. Reprint: New York: Russell and Russell, 1968.
Verba, Cynthia. Music and the French Enlightenment: Reconstruction of a Dialogue, 1750-1764. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.
Zinsser, Judith P. La Dame d’ Esprit: A Biography of Marquise Du Chatelet.  New York: Penguin Group (USA), November, 2006.

Related Events

Related Events Information Unavailable