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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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VIII -- CONCLUSION: Economy of a Mysterious Scholarship 229


VIII. CONCLUSION: Economy of a Mysterious Scholarship It may be hard not to say that the ‗real‘ Marquis de Sade is located deep down at the end of the ‗labyrinths‘ where his stereotypical (dangerous) charac- ters and language belong; for, in there, too, are his philosophers and their equivalent who are even capable of turning the dark, crime-ridden labyrinths into enlightened spaces. We have read and learned that he cordially prided him- self for being a philosopher, and used his genius to vividly paint the different threats of sophistry and crime to genuine philosophy and humanity. The threat can be summarized as the sophistic scélératesse and its carriage of crimes against innocence, its celebration of temptation, its oftentimes religious veil over very materialistically sinful souls. But would Sade ever be seen as ‗holier‘ than average, or as a potentially good person who had enough courage to wear the dirt of his times in all at- tempts to get it cleaned? Was he not a divine messenger who, instead of mak- ing miracles, selected the roots of the most serious problems in real society and showed them to the people, explaining that they needed to work them out? Was he not the messenger who refused to die—not only soon, but ever—when he noticed how hard his task was growing by the day, and even inside of his own complex means? Was he not the prophet that one cannot afford to like, so extrovert, so pessimistic but realistic...

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