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The Post-Revolutionary Self: Politics and Psyche in France, - download pdf or read online

By Jan Goldstein

within the wake of the French Revolution, as makes an attempt to revive political balance to France many times failed, a gaggle of involved intellectuals pointed out a probable perpetrator: the generic sensationalist psychology, and particularly the flimsy and fragmented self it produced. They proposed an unlimited, state-run pedagogical undertaking to exchange sensationalism with a brand new psychology that showcased an indivisible and actively keen self, or moi . As conceived and performed by means of Victor Cousin, a by-product thinker yet an educational entrepreneur of genius, this long-lived venture singled out the male bourgeoisie for education in selfhood. Granting each person a self in precept, Cousin and his disciples deemed employees and ladies incapable of the introspective finesse essential to applicable that self in perform.

starting with a clean attention of where of sensationalism within the outdated Regime and the French Revolution, Jan Goldstein strains a post-Revolutionary politics of selfhood that reserved the Cousinian moi for the expert elite, outraged Catholics and consigned socially marginal teams to the ministrations of phrenology. Situating the Cousinian moi among the fragmented selves of eighteenth-century sensationalism and twentieth-century Freudianism, Goldstein means that the resolutely unitary self of the 19th century was once in basic terms an interlude adapted to the desires of the post-Revolutionary bourgeois order.


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Fabre’s play, by contrast, ends on a vindictive note. ” Unlike M. d’Orfeuil, who welcomes the transformed d’Orlange into the fold, M. de Franval bids the incorrigible Valère good riddance and ends the play by nearly cursing him and his particular mental state: Astonishing. . And, what’s more, he believes what he says. Let us nonetheless conclude that the presumptuous person Is mad (fou) in his desires and is never happy. (Act 5, Scene 7, p. 133)12 What does “presumptuous” imagination and the fond attachment to castles in Spain connote in these two plays, and why is it so threatening in both—needing to be reformed and neutralized in Collin’s version and altogether extirpated in Fabre’s?

Second, according to the eighteenth-century understanding of psychology, the imagination was the most vulnerable component of the person, the one that would unfailingly wreak havoc (on its owner and on others) if certain kinds of alterations in the social fabric were undertaken. However else the quarrel between Fabre and Collin might be read as a presage of the Revolution, the fascination of two prominent playwrights with the imagination at this particular historical juncture and their conviction that the public would share that fascination was, I The Perils of Imagination 23 contend, a discursive marker of sociocultural unease and of the seismic shifts that were soon to come.

As d’Alembert noted in his Discours préliminaire to the Encyclopédie (1751), all knowledge, as compiled within that ambitious multivolume compendium, was to be categorized by the mental operation primarily responsible for its production: thus history fell into the province of memory, philosophy was the fruit of reason, and the fine arts were born of imagination. The Discours préliminaire did not dwell on the connotations or affective charges carried by these three mental operations. But it is clear from d’Alembert’s brief discussion that he regarded memory as the least problematic, a simple re-presentation by the mind to itself of objects that had earlier been firmly and directly apprehended by the senses.

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