Chapter

Voluptuous Figures: Lucretian Materialism in Eighteenth-Century France

Natania Meeker

in Voluptuous Philosophy

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780823226962
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240944 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823226962.003.0002
Voluptuous Figures: Lucretian Materialism in Eighteenth-Century France

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In the “Discours préliminare” prefacing his 1768 translation of Lucretius's De rerum natura, Charles-Joseph Panckoucke describes the poem as “the boldest work that any human being had ever dared compose.” For French Enlightenment intellectuals, the open embrace of Epicurean doctrine could easily devolve into serious accusations of atheism and libertinage. Nonetheless, the spectral presence of Lucretius haunts eighteenth-century science with remarkable persistence. The reemergence of an explicit interest in Lucretius's poem that takes place in the latter half of the eighteenth century in France seems unsurprising in this context—part of a generalized philosophical response to a new, and more openly secular, critical imperative.

Keywords: Epicurean doctrine; atheism; libertinage; Lucretius; De rerum natura; French Enlightenment; materialism

Chapter.  18303 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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