Culture of Enlightening
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319 pages

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Recent scholarly and popular attempts to define the Enlightenment, account for its diversity, and evaluate its historical significance suffer from a surprising lack of consensus at a time when the social and political challenges of today cry out for a more comprehensive and serviceable understanding of its importance. This book argues that regnant notions of the Enlightenment, the Radical Enlightenment, and the multitude of regional and religious enlightenments proposed by scholars all share an entangled intellectual genealogy rooted in a broader revolutionary "culture of enlightening" that took shape over the long-arc of intellectual history from the waning of the sixteenth-century Reformations to the dawn of the Atlantic Revolutionary era. Generated in competition for a changing readership and forged in dialog and conflict, dynamic and diverse notions of what it meant to be enlightened constituted a broader culture of enlightening from which the more familiar strains of the Enlightenment emerged, often ironically and accidentally, from originally religious impulses and theological questioning.

By adapting, for the first time, methodological insights from the scholarship of historical entanglement (l'histoire croisée) to the study of the Enlightenment, this book provides a new interpretation of the European republic of letters from the late 1600s through the 1700s by focusing on the lived experience of the long-neglected Catholic theologian, historian, and contributor to Diderot's Encyclopédie, Abbé Claude Yvon. The ambivalent historical memory of Yvon, as well as the eclectic and global array of his sources and endeavors, Burson argues, can serve as a gauge for evaluating historical transformations in the surprisingly diverse ways in which eighteenth-century individuals spoke about enlightening human reason, religion, and society. Ultimately, Burson provocatively claims that even the most radical fruits of the Enlightenment can be understood as the unintended offspring of a revolution in theology and the cultural history of religious experience.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 août 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268105440
Langue English

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The Culture of Enlightening
Abbé Claude Yvon and the Entangled Emergence of the Enlightenment
University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Copyright © 2019 by the University of Notre Dame
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Burson, Jeffrey D., author. Title: The culture of enlightening : Abbé Claude Yvon and the entangled emergence of the Enlightenment / Jeffrey D. Burson. Description: Notre Dame, Indiana : University of Notre Dame Press, [2019] | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Identifiers: LCCN 2019017147 (print) | LCCN 2019019088 (ebook) | ISBN 9780268105433 (pdf) | ISBN 9780268105440 (epub) | ISBN 9780268105419 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 0268105413 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Yvon, Claude, 1714–1791. | Theologians—France—Biography. | Historians—France—Biography. | Encyclopedists—France—Biography. | Enlightenment—France. | Encyclopédie. | France—Intellectual life—18th century. Classification: LCC BX4705.Y838 (ebook) | LCC BX4705.Y838 B87 2019 (print) | DDC 282.092 [B]—dc23 LC record available at
∞ This book is printed on acid-free paper.
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List of Abbreviations
Part I
1 The Culture of Enlightening en Sorbonne and the Formation of Claude Yvon
2 Into the Midcentury Maelstrom: Claude Yvon between Sorbonne and the Encyclopédistes
3 The Encyclopédie and the Polarization of Enlightening Culture in France
Part II
4 Yvon the Encyclopédiste I: Metaphysics, Logic, and the History of Philosophy
5 Yvon the Encyclopédiste II: Immortality, Immateriality, and an Abbé’s Dalliance with Vitalistic Materialism
6 Yvon the Encyclopédiste III: Moral Philosophy, Practical Theology, and the Problem of Evil

Part III
7 Yvon in Exile, 1752–1762
8 The Return from Exile, circa 1762–1768
9 The Quest to Harmonize Philosophy and Religion: The First Attempt, 1762–1768
10 Out of the Ashes? Yvon at Château d’Ormes, circa 1771–1774
11 From Yvon’s Last Stand before the General Assembly of the Clergy to His Last Days, circa 1770–1789
12 Yvon Postmortem: Concluding Reflections on the Cultural and Theological Revolution of Enlightening
As is so often the case with any large project, this book emerged from careful planning and lengthy labors conducted largely in the space between, and at the instigation of, happy accidents, minor calamities, and unexpected delays. But in retrospect, this book could not have reached its own destination—one very different from that which I had initially planned for it—if I had not been compelled to tack a course into the rapidly changing, ever expanding ocean of scholarship on the Enlightenment while sailing against life’s often erratic and gusty winds at key moments throughout the process.
My first sustained encounter with Abbé Claude Yvon was as the shadowy figure who had befriended and assisted the seemingly minor eighteenth-century figure of Abbé Jean-Martin de Prades in the writing of a uniquely controversial theology thesis defended at the Sorbonne in December 1751. Yvon, furthermore, had accompanied Prades into exile following the scandal surrounding this thesis, and, as I quickly learned, he was in fact a prolific if minor contributor to eighteenth-century thought for many more years than the abbé de Prades himself. Throughout academic year 2003–4, therefore, and in the early months of researching a dissertation on the cause célèbre of the Prades thesis (a dissertation that later became the seed of my first book), I first became familiar with a small handful of Abbé Yvon’s extensive contributions to the Encyclopédie. But it was not until one particularly snowy Parisian morning in early December 2004 at the François-Mitterrand Library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France—within a week of returning to the United States after residing in Paris for research on what became The Rise and Fall of Theological Enlightenment —that I encountered a very rare example of Yvon’s later apologetical church histories published after his return to France in the early 1760s. Only then did I realize the extent to which Yvon had somehow managed to contribute both to Diderot’s Enlightenment and to the genres of antiphilosophe literature that until quite recently had been considered a part of the Counter-Enlightenment. I realized that to fully investigate this intriguing mystery, it would be necessary to pursue it as a wholly separate inquiry. At best, I initially conceived this project on Yvon as most likely to afford me with just a few solitary scholarly journal articles or perhaps a very short book about a peculiarly idiosyncratic clergyman. But my own life, and the contours of eighteenth-century scholarship, charted a different course, and the shape of my initially biographical investigation into the life and work of Abbé Yvon accordingly transformed.
Nevertheless, my pursuit of Claude Yvon receded in priority for a few short years as I concentrated on producing The Rise and Fall of Theological Enlightenment and several other projects while an assistant professor of history at what was still then known as Macon State College (now Middle Georgia State University). But throughout the period of 2007–10, I continued very slowly to read more deeply into Yvon’s life and his output. By 2009, I had become sufficiently convinced of the richness and mysterious fractures characteristic of Yvon’s several thousand pages of published material, spanning three vital decades of the Enlightenment and pre-Revolutionary era, that I decided a more extensive, much overdue book on this often underestimated and overlooked eighteenth-century figure was in order. Shortly after beginning a new position at Georgia Southern University in the fall of 2011, I began the research in earnest. All the while, the contours of scholarship on the eighteenth-century Enlightenment (particularly as it concerns questions of Enlightenment, Enlightenment radicalization, and religion) underwent a rapid and very exciting transformation. The rapid proliferation of often quite diverse and even contradictory perspectives has meant that, throughout the last six years in particular, the contextual backdrop of Yvon’s life often seemed like a disorienting attempt to strike at a moving target. But, what follows is, I hope, all the richer for it.
This project has immensely benefited from several transformative conferences and symposia that have assisted me in refining and reconceiving my original notion of theological Enlightenment in view of the many stunning developments in Enlightenment and Revolutionary-era historiography that have transformed our understanding of the period in recent years. First, I wish to thank my friend and colleague Dean Kostantaras, now at Northwest Louisiana State University, for calling me in the fall of 2011, in the midst of a frenetic year, to convince me to write a paper for a thematic panel on the influence of l’histoire croisée (historical entanglement) on various fields of European and global historiography. Reluctantly at first (if only because I was then largely unfamiliar with l’histoire croisée as an approach), I agreed to participate. I quickly discovered to my delight, in the process of researching my paper for what was to be the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, in Baton Rouge, that entangled history afforded me with a theoretical framework, and a more effective vocabulary, for articulating how the dialogical process of Theological Enlightenment I had defined in my first book was really more capaciously described as a process applicable to the Enlightenment as a whole. Second, I wish to thank Anton M. Matytsin and Dan Edelstein for inviting me to present at a symposium convened at Stanford University just two years later, in May 2014, on the religious and mystical origins of the Enlightenment. This conference proved to be my first vital foray into investigating the narratological constructions of the Enlightenment crafted by different groups of eighteenth-century actors and so often spoken of, retrospectively, as separate enlightenment tendencies. Third, I am immensely grateful to my friend and colleague, Daniel J. Watkins, now at Baylor University, for inviting me to speak at a conference in honor of Dale K. Van Kley in Chicago in October 2015. In what proved to be a very heartwarming and intellectually stimulating weekend, I first attempted to consider ways in which eighteenth-century learned culture—the Enlightenment and its various permutations (pious, radical, or otherwise)—might be considered as having emerged from a process of entanglement by which separate enlightenments mutually created one another through dialog and dispute. This conference proved to be a defining moment for this project, one that allowed me to reconceive the life of Claude Yvon as a window

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