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Smiling Through the Cultural CatastropheToward the Revival of Higher Education$
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Jeffrey Hart

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300087048

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300087048.001.0001

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The Indispensable Enlightenment: Molière and Voltaire

The Indispensable Enlightenment: Molière and Voltaire

(p.187) Chapter Nine The Indispensable Enlightenment: Molière and Voltaire
Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe

Jeffrey Hart

Yale University Press

This chapter looks at the period of the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. It studies two great and representative authors: Molière and Voltaire. The middle of the seventeenth century saw devastation in warfare and the religious conflicts of the Reformation. The Enlightenment gave rise to a much more sustained critical reason and brought about a new movement in thought and educated culture. The performed plays of Molière dramatized the powerful and unsettling impulse of the Enlightenment. Molière's plays reached towards the intellectual heart of the Enlightenment and expressed an enormous shift in the mind of the advanced nations of the West. Voltaire's Candide, on the other hand, was a short and brilliant spoof—a metaphorical reflection of the absurdities of experience. This chapter thus looks at the age of Enlightenment, studying how Molière and Voltaire influenced and affected Western civilization.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, Age of Reason, religious conflicts, Reformation, Voltaire, Molière, Candide

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