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  • Abbé Claude Yvon and the Entangled Emergence of the Enlightenment

  • 600 pages, 6.00 x 9.00

  • Hardcover 9780268105419 May 2019

  • eBook (PDF) 9780268105433 August 2019

  • eBook (EPUB) 9780268105440 August 2019

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Recent scholarly and popular attempts to define the Enlightenment, account for its diversity, and evaluate its historical significance suffer from a surprising lack of consensus at a time when the social and political challenges of today cry out for a more comprehensive and serviceable understanding of its importance. This book argues that regnant notions of the Enlightenment, the Radical Enlightenment, and the multitude of regional and religious enlightenments proposed by scholars all share an entangled intellectual genealogy rooted in a broader revolutionary 'culture of enlightening' that took shape over the long-arc of intellectual history from the waning of the sixteenth-century Reformations to the dawn of the Atlantic Revolutionary era. Generated in competition for a changing readership and forged in dialog and conflict, dynamic and diverse notions of what it meant to be enlightened constituted a broader culture of enlightening from which the more familiar strains of the Enlightenment emerged, often ironically and accidentally, from originally religious impulses and theological questioning.

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By adapting, for the first time, methodological insights from the scholarship of historical entanglement (l'histoire croisée) to the study of the Enlightenment, this book provides a new interpretation of the European republic of letters from the late 1600s through the 1700s by focusing on the lived experience of the long-neglected Catholic theologian, historian, and contributor to Diderot's Encyclopédie, Abbé Claude Yvon. The ambivalent historical memory of Yvon, as well as the eclectic and global array of his sources and endeavors, Burson argues, can serve as a gauge for evaluating historical transformations in the surprisingly diverse ways in which eighteenth-century individuals spoke about enlightening human reason, religion, and society. Ultimately, Burson provocatively claims that even the most radical fruits of the Enlightenment can be understood as the unintended offspring of a revolution in theology and the cultural history of religious experience.

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Author Bio

Jeffrey D. Burson is associate professor of French history at Georgia Southern University. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including The Rise and Fall of Theological Enlightenment: Jean-Martin de Prades and Ideological Polarization in Eighteenth-Century France (2010), and Enlightenment and Catholicism in Europe: A Transnational History, co-edited with Ulrich L. Lehner (2014), both published by the University of Notre Dame Press.


'This is one of the most vital recent scholarly books to be written on the culture of the French learned world during the period of the 'Enlightenment.' With the rise of interest in Catholic responses to the lumières, this work focuses astutely and with bright focus on the 'entangling' of Catholic theologians and savants, on the one hand, and secular Enlightenment thinkers, on the other. . . . A remarkable, erudite, compelling, and major study, reconceptualizing much of 'Enlightenment' studies, and it will change the ways in which unbiased readers approach the eighteenth century.' ~Alan Charles Kors, Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of History, University of Pennsylvania
'This is a splendidly researched book that sheds light on the life of an overlooked yet fascinating figure of the Enlightenment and makes a crucial contribution to Enlightenment scholarship. The author does a great job situating the Abbé Yvon's life in the context of eighteenth-century intellectual culture and showing how the complex and even contradictory elements of his thought were representative of broader trends.' ~Anton M. Matytsin, Kenyon College
'Jeffrey Burson's thorough study of the obscure, sometimes ridiculed, Abbé Claude Yvon provides a compelling vehicle for examining the 'culture of enlightening.' Through meticulous research and erudite analysis, Burson examines Yvon's lengthy and eclectic body of work to illustrate that the Enlightenment was neither monolithic nor a series of discrete movements. This book emphasizes the Enlightenment as a process in which different modes of thought intersected with one another, sometimes in conflicting and contradictory ways. Through this impressive case study in which we see the interaction between individuals and ideas, Burson provides the outlines of a 'cultural revolution,' defined by ideas, interactions, interventions, and contingency.' ~Mita Choudhury, Vassar College

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