VOLTAIRE November 1694 – May 1778An Essay Upon the Civil Wars of France and Also Upon the Epik Poetry of the European Nations from Homer to Milton
E N L I G H T E N M E N T / RO M A N T I C Immanuel Kant born 1724 Voltaire publishes ‗Essay Upon Epik Poetry‘ 1727 The border of Romanticism and the Enlightenment Themes of Romanticism in Voltaire The Man of Many Talents Rousseau vs. Voltaire
HISTORICAL STAGE Reading becomes a fad in France (coffee houses/salons) French frivolity at its height French Revolution to come in 1789 (inspiration for manyRomantic ideas) Voltaire the Exile
OVERARCHING THEMES Voltaire‘s proposition of pluralism vs. nationalism Discussion of Author, Reader, and Critic (new) Literature as a product of culture (nation)
FROM HOMER TO MILTON ―We have in every art more rules than examples, for men are morefond of teaching than being able to perform; so there are morecommentators than Poets‖ (37) Of Homer: ―Critics…who mistake commonly the beginning of anart for the principles of art itself ‖ (37) Poetry as a mirror of culture, changing daily, without fixedessence, despite rules— Voltaire calls for a change from nationalisticliterary sentiments
THE EPIC From ―epos‖ meaning discourse The only universal trait is to be awed or moved by the work ―There is such a thing as a National Taste‖ (44) In, ―laying aside the prejudices of the School or the overbearinglove of the productions of his own country‖ we are much better off. Conflicting statements?
LITERARY THEORY ―The progress, the sinking of Art, its Raising again‖ Precursor to Hegelian theory of Thesis—Antithesis—Synthesis (Bakhtin‘s later Criticism) Voltaire‘s secular beliefs and the reader as an individual (able andcompetent judge)
WHY WE HATE HOMER ―Few have been able to go through the whole Iliad without struggling against asecret Dislike, and some have thrown it aside after the Fourth or Fifth Book. Howdoes it come to pass that Homer hath so many admirers and so few readers?‖ (90)1. awed by Homer‘s fame2. Love for ‗The Great Author‘3. TL;DR4. ―the motifs of the heart do not keep pace with the pleasures of the fancy‖ (92)5. Many books, read like soap operas (too much uniformity, not enough continuity)
C O O L S T O RY B RO, T E L L I T AG A I N Most of the following authors will be compared to Homer, FYI Interplay between contemporaries and the Ancients ―he draws from the richness from the sane source but not at theexpense of his predecessor‖ (96) Critics are too caught up with seeing the ‗plagiarized‘ likenesses oftwo works to appreciate them. Does this problem carry on today?
THE RUNDOWN Lucan: ―a recent history [as] the proper subject‖ (100) –tackling theproblem of a subject being too great to do justice to Trissino: The Vulgar Tongue – ―It is not vulgar to write ahistorically based epic in one‘s language; it can capture nuance‖ Camounes (skip) Tasso: Voltaire‘s favorite –The reader‘s dissatisfaction of beingmade to fall in love with a character and have them dispatched tooquickly
MILTON Don Alonzo D‘Ereilla (skip) Milton: 1. Uniformity yet varied 2. ―I am very far from thinking that one nation ought to judge of its productions by the standard of another…would each nation attend a little more than they do to the taste and Manners of their respective neighbors perhaps a general taste might diffuse itself through all Europe‖ (135)
SOME CONCLUSIONS Romantic idea: ―I admire the author, I desire to know something of the man, and he whom all Readers would be glad to know, is allowed to speak of himself ‖ (137) Poetry? Prose? ―For our poetry…would have nothing but loftiness of Stile, to distinguish it from Prose, if it were not for Rime‖ (148)