By Catherine Cusset
WINNER OF THE 1996 Walker Cowen Memorial Prize, Catherine Cusset's No the next day to come lines the ethical which means of delight in numerous libertine works of the eighteenth-century--Watteau's P?lerinage ? l'?le de Cyth?re, Pr?vost's Manon Lescaut, Cr?billon's Les ?garements du coeur et de l'esprit, the nameless pornographic novel Th?r?se philosophe, Diderot's l. a. religieuse, and Vivant Denon's brief tale "Point de lendemain."In this bold ebook, Cusset reframes the customarily misunderstood style that celebrates what Casanova calls "the current delight in the senses." She contends libertine works aren't, as is often concept, characterised by way of the preaching of sexual excitement yet are as a substitute associated via an "ethics of delight" that teaches readers that vainness and sensual amusement are a part of their ethical being. constructing Roland Barthes's notion of "the excitement of the text," the writer argues that the radical is a robust motor vehicle for ethical classes, extra so than philosophical or ethical treatises, since it conveys such classes via pleasure.Cusset reads the proliferation of libertine novels as a response opposed to the denial of delight within the literature and tradition of the time. in the middle of the century's metaphysical impulse to simplify human psychology, those works concentrate on the moments during which human contradictions are revealed.Cusset's research means that libertine novels provided the eighteenth century a extra advanced photo of ethical being and eventually contributed a lesson of tolerance to the Enlightenment.
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Extra info for No tomorrow: the ethics of pleasure in the French Enlightenment
27 The words "put into practice" [réduit en exercice] are more interesting. "Reduced into an exercise," Prévost says literally. We encounter this word reduced (réduit) throughout the current study; if the eighteenth century favors an operation, it is reductionfrom great to small, from ideal to real, from emotional to sexual, from metaphysical to physical. This reduction has also been referred to as "analysis," quite literally a reduction to the simple, a decomposition of elements (from luo, is, ere, "to dissolve," and ana, a prefix indicating a return to the source).
25 I choose to speak of pleasure, not of desire, for two reasons: first, pleasure is the term encountered most often in libertine texts; second, desire connotes lack, and lack does not interest the libertine novelists. The psychological model they valorize is based on "moment": they are struck by the contradiction between our moral being, which defines itself in terms of duration, consequence, and continuity, and this other being, at once physical, moral, and imaginary, which compels us, in the "moment," to commit acts incompatible with all our moral values.
Pleasure cannot be controlled; it imposes itself through sensation. Pleasure is a driving force, since it is analogous to "movement," which drives matter. 15 Let us compare this materialist definition of pleasure with the earlier definition in Furetière's Dictionnaire universel (1690): "Pleasure: Joy that the soul or the body feels, when excited by some agreeable object. The contemplation of God, or of Truth, gives solid pleasures to spiritual people: by comparison, worldly pleasures are nothing.