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Title: Tales of Impostors: Exposing Belief in Fiction from the Baroque to the Early Enlightenment (Cyrano de Bergerac, Montfaucon de Villars, Tyssot de Patot)
Authors: Worden, Daniel James
Advisors: Schröder, Volker
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: Cyrano de Bergerac
Montfaucon de Villars
Tyssot de Patot
Subjects: Romance literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In this dissertation, I examine the relationship between fiction, imposture, and the representation of human societies in French literature between 1640 and 1720. The project attempts to reconstitute a neglected literary genealogy, effectively bridging the ostensible gap between, on the one hand, the vertiginous play of mirrors which haunts Baroque literary and artistic representation, and on the other, the subversive and erudite logic of early Enlightenment philosophical tales. The three authors at the center of the inquiry - Cyrano de Bergerac, Montfaucon de Villars, and Tyssot de Patot - represented seemingly trustworthy characters as impostors, thereby experimenting within their stories, manipulating readers' willingness to suspend disbelief, and subtly exposing purported religious and political `truths' as `fictions' that should be doubted. As they ironically collapsed the distinctions that separated characters from real people, narrators from authors, and fiction from history, they destabilized their readers' sense of control over perception, and reminded them that perspectives on religious, political and aesthetic questions were always mediated through mechanisms of representation. Furthermore, they suggested, these imposed apparatuses emanated from a happenstance confluence of traditions and institutions, and the powerful individuals who had shaped both, possibly through deliberate deceit. In more modern terminology, these writers used fictions and figures of "impostures" to carry out thought experiments with theories of society proper to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Cyrano, Villars and Tyssot made the writing of fiction into a practice through which they created model after model of social phenomena and cosmic order, using the imagination to test out each one. As each author built upon the precedents set by previous storytellers, they blurred the distinctions between true stories and hoaxes until a mere shift of perspective could make one seem like the other.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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