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Thinking Before Writing

The Critical Battle on the Fils naturel by Diderot and the ‘Sentence’ Issue

Gerardo Tocchini    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



The introduction of Diderot’s first drama, Le Fils naturel, unleashed a furious counter-offensive from playwrights and from influential sectors of journalistic criticism (Fréron, Palissot, Collé), who were fighting the theories closed in the armour of standards and of the 'good' rule of playwriting. The heated debate that aroused, allows us to bring back to light the underlying terms of a first, bewildered reaction to the Enlightenment critique on the principle of Autorité dans les discours et dans les écrits. Far from being a merely 'aesthetic' matter, the theme that emerged in the first volume of the Encyclopédie re-connected to the problem of employment at all levels of the highest authority, fitting into a wider cultural battle aimed at affecting, through the arts of entertainment, the authoritarian logic of the old political and social regime. Diderot’s suggestion lends itself to highlight the entrance in the theater of the écriture philosophique logics and the final write-down of the writing procedures from the âge de l'éloquence, highlighting the 'political and criticizing aspects of the origins of our literary modernity.

Sept. 1, 2015

Keywords: Enlightenment critique on the principle of ‘autoriDiderot’s first dramaAuthoritarian logic of the old political and sociaEncyclopédie

Copyright: © 2015 Gerardo Tocchini. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.