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As the end of the century approaches, many predict our fin de siè cle will mirror the nineteenth- century decline into decadence. But a better model for the 1990s is to be found, according to Joan DeJean, in the culture wars of France in the 1690s--the time of a battle of the books known as the Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns.

DeJean brilliantly reassesses our current culture wars from the perspective of that earlier fin de siè cle (the first to think of itself as such), and rereads the seventeenth-century Quarrel from the vantage of our own warring "ancients" and "moderns." In so doing, DeJean shows that a fin de siè cle taking place in the shadow of culture wars can be more a source of constructive cultural revolution than of apocalyptic gloom and doom. Just as the first fin de siè cle's battle of the books served as the spark that set off the Enlightenment, introducing radically new sexual and social politics that laid the groundwork for modernity, so can our current culture wars result in radical, liberating changes--if we take an active stand against our own "ancients" who seek to stifle such reforms.

""Ancients against Moderns" is at once a ground-breaking experiment in literary history and a timely meditation on the notion of the fin de siè cle. No one with an interest in the Enlightenment or its still-fraught intellectual legacy can afford to ignore this book."--Terry Castle, author of "The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny"

Joan DeJean is Trustee Professor of French at the University of Pennsylvania. She is author of "Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel inFrance" and "Fictions of Sappho, 1546-1937," the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

  • ISBN13: 9780226141381
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Pubilcation Year: 1997
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 00236
Publication DateMarch 15, 1997
Primary CategorySocial Science/General

Ancients Against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siecle

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