Desire/Knowledge

18 May 2017

Keynote 1 – 5:00pm

‘Tales of Wit and Woe’

How were desire and knowledge paired for gens d’esprit from the era of Montesquieu to that of Balzac?  I will explore that question by looking at this period’s models of mind, as well as the  special traits—physical, emotional, social, intellectual—that various authors attributed to the persona of the cerebralist.  I will also examine the peculiar woes they associated with knowledge-seeking, from dyspepsia to excessive absorption in the quest for ideas.

Anne C. Vila, Professor of French, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Publications include Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France (1998), A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment, 1650-1800, ed. (2014). She is completing a book manuscript Singular Beings: Passions and Pathologies of the Scholar in France, 1720-1840 (for U Penn Press), co-editing, with R. Chalmin, a critical reedition of Tissot’s De la santé des gens de lettres (for Editions Garnier); and, with F. Vatan, a special issue of L’Esprit créateur on “Literature, Science, and the Life of the Mind in France, 1700-1900.”