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The Marquis de Sade as a Key Figure of Enlightenment

How His Crystal Genius Still Speaks to Today’s World and Its Major Problems


Moussa Traore

The Marquis de Sade as a Key Figure of Enlightenment: How His Crystal Genius Still Speaks to Today’s World and Its Major Problems discusses how the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) stretched the dimensions of reputation and notoriety nearly obscuring his mastery in literature and philosophy while braving the Ancien Régime and Revolutionary France’s «age of iron [hell]» with unheard-of determination to be read and taken seriously as not just a writer and a contributing citizen but as an engaged educator, a committed philosopher, and an uncompromisingly fierce moralist. Sade has been a strange combination of what society dreads and what it needs most for its salvation: mature enlightenment that is not afraid to see and face real problems so that there can be solutions. This book stresses how the literary and intellectual public needs to reconnect with the moral gems of this demon(ized) man, nowadays more so than ever, to explain our most critical issues and to reiterate the long-standing solutions Sade professed from the 1780s through the early nineteenth century. This work not only reestablishes the creative, literary, and intellectual Sade, it critically stages and highlights the philosophical Marquis as a world citizen trapped between theories of social classes and a loose-fitting messianism. It is evident throughout the work how Sade’s deep concerns for humanity flatly contradict the popular rhetoric (of wickedness and perversion) recycled and amplified since his first writing days. The Marquis de Sade as a Key Figure of Enlightenment offers a new perspective on this complex writer and on the intimate workings of our human world. It is a valuable resource for courses on French literature, eighteenth-century studies, the Enlightenment, literary criticism, and gender and sexuality studies.


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II -- CASE STUDY - A: Cahiers Personnels and Etre Suprême: Sade's Sense of the Writer and His Duty beyond Art and Easy Readers 45


II. CASE STUDY³A Cahiers personnels and Etre Suprême: 6DGH·V6HQVHRIWKH:ULWHUDQGKLV'XW\beyond Art and Easy Readers Since he began writing his kind of books, Sade had fierce critics from all sides of his quite complex 18th century French society. However, nowhere was that opposition more pronounced than with the dubious mediators that are self-proclaimed, though little read, ¶experts· on literary reviewing. Echoing con- temporary political tendencies, the reviewers in his case became almost self- appointed censors of his work. Among the journals that engaged him the most, Journal des Débats was notorious. While critics working for that journal tried to define the profession of writing (being a writer) according to their personal preferences, Sade had to berate them for excluding him from worthy writers. When reacting to criticism from that journal, Sade stated the role of the writer as he knew it rather than how suspicious media (unreasonably biased critics) pretended that it should be. To be clear, engaging in refutation, he de- fended the role and meaning of his trade as a literary and philosophical writer. As he said (Ca), he painted crimes to make people hate them and fight them; but his ways in doing so still fuel polemics about what the acceptable role of the writer is. Most importantly, though, this reminds us of the complexity of writing³especially being a creative, committed writer of true novelty: It is necessary, these ostrogoths say, to look for the honorable man in the writer. The man...

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