By Elisabeth Carpentier, Jean-Pierre Arrignon
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These skeptics further argue that the credibility of the older narratives has all but evaporated. Why not avoid the urge to renarrate this history altogether and simply let these dead narrative horses lie? Still others argue cogently that narrative itself is a problem since all narratives deploy homogenized unities and causal frameworks and these will inevitably replicate the mythologies of origin so problematic in the older accounts. These criticisms are potent, but the resiliency of the older narratives is formidable as well.
82 Le Blanc’s analysis was on the mark. The commencement triggered by the Lettres philosophiques was not provoked by the intellectual claims of the book even if its contents were not completely irrelevant to it. Rather, it was the intellectual persona that Voltaire crafted with his text that proved provocative. Later philosophes would have us believe that the Lettres philosophiques initiated the Enlightenment because it introduced new and controversial ideas into France. In fact, the work created an upheaval because it defined a new and provocative intellectual identity—that of the philosophe.
47. Ibid. 48. Marquis de Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire (Geneva, 1787). My citations will be drawn from the modern edition of the work (Paris, 1994), 46. 49. , 45. 50. D’Alembert, Preliminary Discourse, 89. 51. , 90. 52. Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire 52. 18 } Introduction Joined by these and other similarities, the two narratives merged into a single story that explained France’s passage into Enlightened modernity as the offshoot of Newtonian science and the heroic efforts of certain Frenchmen to defend it.
La France et les Francais aux XIVe et XVe siecles : societe et population by Elisabeth Carpentier, Jean-Pierre Arrignon