Race Lines and the Rhetoric of Distinction through the Académie française
Chapter 8–The 18th-Century: Philosophers and Church Men in the Académie 133
Chapter 8 The 18th-Century: Philosophers and Church Men in the Académie Looking closely at the membership of the Académie as the institution was making the transition from the 17th-century to the 18th-century, one clearly notices the powerful presence of the clergy in it. Besides the cardinals, (arch)bishops and general supporters and defenders of Catholicism, the list of the abbés, the potential religious leaders to come, is lengthy with at least nine members. These representatives of religion were to push the religious issues of the 17th-century all the way into the 1740s. This explained not only the mindset and leaning of the absolute monarchy, it also raises questions as to what being French meant and was to mean after Louis XIV; and what the future of the Protestants, the Enlightenment, etc. was to be. Opening the 18th- century, the ideas of Enlightenment were to become the main challenge for the religious establishment, the political leadership, and the Académie. The position of the Modernes was to gather strength after Descartes and his independent scholarship, while the Aristotelian heritage was fiercely de- fended along with that of Richelieu, the credited founder of the Académie. As their production brought them distinction and popularity, more philoso- phers joined the Académie, and the language of purity took a different tone. Before the philosophers could have a hold in the Académie and respond strongly to the religious dominance, there had to be gradual changes begin- ning with the end...
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