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Religion, Ethics, and History in the French Long Seventeenth Century - La Religion, la morale, et l’histoire à l’âge classique


Edited By William Brooks and Rainer Zaiser

In June 2006 delegates from eight countries representing six French, US, and British-based learned societies met at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, for a conference on the French long seventeenth century entitled ‘Modernités/Modernities’. Twenty of the best papers on religion, ethics and history were selected for this volume, and they present new perspectives on topics as diverse as devotion and pornography, artifice and the pursuit of truth, Bruscambille and Pascal, historiography from the sixteenth century to Voltaire, and, of course, the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.
En juin 2006 un colloque sur le thème de la modernité pendant l’âge classique a réuni à St Catherine’s College, Oxford des spécialistes venus de huit pays pour représenter six sociétés savantes dont quatre françaises, une américaine, et une britannique. Vingt communications choisies parmi les meilleures sont recueillies dans le présent volume, sur des sujets aussi divers que la dévotion et la pornographie, l’artifice et la recherche de la vérité, Bruscambille et Pascal, l’historiographie tant du seizième siècle que de Voltaire et, bien entendu, la Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes.


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‘Il se veut faire voir’: The Modern Courtier in Castiglione and Montaigne 117


SUSANNAH CARSON ‘Il se veut faire voir’: The Modern Courtier in Castiglione and Montaigne Baldassarre Castiglione’s Il cortegiano (1528) and Michel de Mon- taigne’s Essais (1588) mark key literary moments in the evolution of the modern individual. Both authors take it for granted that each individual is inextricably involved in a game of hide-and-seek encompassing the whole of society. In this they agree: the question concerns technique. The debate, to put it simply, is between whether to cultivate a social mask to help win the game, as Castiglione advises, or whether to throw out the mask and cultivate the self beneath, as Montaigne recommends. The courtiers of Castiglione’s fictional court of Urbino observe each other and develop a sophisticated set of rules for mutual evaluation. In the Essais, Montaigne descries the dissimulation of the courtier and encourages the fusion of appearance to underlying reality: each courtier assimilates an acceptable set of moral standards and surrenders himself voluntarily to the gaze of the other players. Castiglione’s artifice and Montaigne’s transparency emerge as rival practices offering different varieties and degrees of autonomy to the modern individual. There are traces of this conflict today, but they appear conspicu- ously throughout the works of court commentators of the seventeenth century: Faret, La Bruyère, La Rochefoucauld, and the Chevalier de Méré incorporate their predecessors’ contradictory precepts, but are unable to reconcile them into a coherent vision of who this modern individual is at court, who he is outside the court, or even who...

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