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5. The Enlightenment and the Public Sphere

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Published on Sep 2, 2009

European Civilization, 1648-1945 (HIST 202)

While the major philosophical projects of the Enlightenment are associated with the names of individual thinkers such as Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire, the cultural transformation in France in the years leading up to the Revolution should also be understood in the context of the public sphere and popular press. Alongside such luminaries as those associated with Diderot's Encyclopédie were a host of lesser pamphleteers and libellists eager for fame and some degree of fortune. If the writings of this latter group were typically vulgar and bereft of literary merit, they nonetheless contributed to the "desacralization" of monarchy in the eyes of the growing literate public. Lawyers' briefs, scandal sheets and pornographic novels all played a role in robbing the monarchy of its claim to sacred authority at the same time as they helped advance the critique of despotism that would serve as a major impetus for the Revolution.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Six Ways That the Enlightenment Mattered
05:52 - Chapter 2. The Spread of Enlightenment Thinking through the Public Sphere: Academies, Masonic Lodges, and Salons
12:58 - Chapter 3. The Enlightenment among the Grub Street Hacks
23:05 - Chapter 4. Desacralization of the French Monarchy
27:43 - Chapter 5. Legal Briefs on the Despotism of the Monarchy: The Law as a New Source of Sovereignty
36:41 - Chapter 6. Sensational Royal Affairs: The Erosion of Monarchical Prestige

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses

This course was recorded in Fall 2008.

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