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Grant number: FEL-257164-18

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Tili Boon Cuille
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO 63130-4899)

Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France, 1750-1800

Completion of a book-length study on 18th-century innovations in opera, poetry, and the visual arts that demonstrate continuities between art, religion, and science in Enlightenment France.

The Enlightenment and modernity remain indelibly associated with the notion of disenchantment. Divining Nature is the first book to question the absolute nature of the rift between science, art, and religion in Enlightenment France, contributing to the recent anti-rationalist trend in eighteenth-century studies. The perception of nature as spectacle allowed for both scientific and religious explanations of natural phenomena. I investigate theories of aesthetics and affect that natural historians and philosophers, artists and composers derived from the spectacle of nature in the years 1750-1800. The works I examine, including natural history, painting, opera, and the novel, enjoyed unprecedented popular success, leading to a significant rereading of the era. The notion of disenchantment, I argue, was fundamentally at odds with the aesthetic reforms of the period, designed to enable audiences to believe in the truth of fiction. An NEH fellowship will enable me to complete my manuscript.

Project fields:
Aesthetics; French Literature; History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2018 – 6/30/2019