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Labouring In Reason's Vineyard: Voltaire And The Allegory Of Enlightenment

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Chapter Summary

According to a long-standing critical tradition, Western European literature in the later eighteenth century witnessed a shift to a new aesthetic devoted to the cult of the symbol. In this chapter, the author takes the issue with de Mans corresponding theory of eighteenth-century allegory as a masochistic or at best therapeutic pastime conducted in the spirit of Kierkegaardian repetition. The chapter examines Voltaires use of allegory as a means both to explore the world and to establish an identity in and through narrative. It highlights those aspects of his philosophy which made narrative the vehicle par excellence for his thought. The author broaden his historical perspective by drawing a brief comparison between two emblematic gardens: the half-acre where Langlands medieval ploughman sets the world to work, and the garden whose cultivation is the final task undertaken by the indefatigable Candide.

Keywords: eighteenth-century allegory; emblematic gardens; Voltaire; Western European literature



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