Through Strangers' Eyes: Fictional Foreigners in Old Regime France (Paperback [33])

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Through Strangers' Eyes
Purdue University Press
6.00" x 9.00"

Book Description

In the eighteenth century, a type of novel flourished showing naive outsiders who come to Europe and are amazed at what they see. Foreign travelers first set foot in Europe in the sixteenth century and are memorably present in Montaigne's essay Des Cannibales. The genre was made popular in France by Montesquieu's novel Lettres persanes. Considering the "stranger" as a figure of ambiguity, Sylvie Romanowski explains why the genre was so useful to the Enlightenment. The question of why showing ambiguous stranger is important in that period is addressed in the book's introduction by setting the Enlightenment in the historical context of the seventeenth century. Romanowski then examines Montaigne's Des Cannibales, showing how these first "outsiders" relate to their eighteenth-century successors. She next considers Montesquieu's Lettres persanes in its entirety, studying the voices of the men, the women, and the eunuchs. She also studies other examples of the genre. The author closes with a discussion of the philosophical tension, ongoing in Western thought, between skeptics and those who, refusing skepticism, seek firm foundations for knowledge, this draws connections between the sixteenth century, and our "postmodern" era.

About the Author(s):

SYLVIE ROMANOWSKI, Associate Professor of French, Ph.D. Yale. Author of L'illusion chez Descartes: la structure du discours cartésien and of articles on Colette, Malraux, Montesquieu, Molière, and Racine; co-editor of Homage to Paul Bénichou. Her interests are in the literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as in theatre and feminism. She has recently completed a book, Through Strangers' Eyes: Fictional Foreigners in Old Regime France, forthcoming at Purdue University Press. Professor Romanowski's other published works include: "Passion simple d'Annie Ernaux: le trajet d'une féministe" (French Forum, 2002); "Cyrano de Bergerac's Epistemological Bodies," in Science Fiction Studies (1998); "Molière's Misanthrope: A Critique and Reluctant Defense of Courtly Life," in Contemporary Theater Review (1997); "Language and Space in Tartuffe," in Approaches to Teaching Molière's Tartuffe and Other Plays (MLA Publication, 1995); "La quête du savoir dans les Lettres persanes," in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (1991); She has given lectures at the Modern Language Association, the North American Association for French Seventeenth-Century Literature, The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Kansas, and Ohio State University. Professor Romanowski is a past director of the Women's Studies Program. s-romanowski [at] northwestern [dot] edu