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N.1/2022 Libertinismo: Filosofia e Scrittura

Il romanzo libertino a vocazione filosofica e la politica

Colas Duflo

Published in June, 2022

The libertine novel with philosophical ambitions and politics

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The eighteenth century saw the birth and development of a very special
kind of clandestine literature: the libertine novel with philosophical ambitions, of
which La Religieuse en chemise, Dom Bougre, Thérèse philosophe and Les Bijoux
indiscrets are the most famous examples. While the philosophical dissertations in
these texts are particularly aimed at moral and religious criticism, political criticism
seems to play a lesser role. This can be explained on the one hand by the narrative
framework, which privileges the intimate and distances the adventures narrated
from the public sphere, and thus from the comparison of forms of government or
the description of social life. On the other hand, on the level of ideas, these novels
claim and illustrate the practice of the double doctrine, according to which the
libertine thinks what he wants in private, but respects the social order outside.
This is a way for the libertine to secure himself against prosecution, but also to
emphasise that he does not create public disorder. However, political issues are
not absent from this corpus. On the one hand, because these novels willingly echo
the debates of their time, like the periodicals whose readership they share. Some
of them thus present developments on the corruption of morals, or on justice and
law. But above all because the anti-religious criticism implied in the libertine novel
leads them to question the link between religion and politics by this means, and to
tackle important polemics on the denunciation of convents or on tolerance.


eighteenth century, clandestine literature, libertine novel, philoso-
phy, political criticism



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