By Caroline Weber
Camille Desmoulins, a journalist writing below the Montagnard regime of 1793-94, remarked that France's govt had changed "the language of democracy" with "the chilly poison of worry, which paralyzed inspiration within the backside of people's souls, and avoided it from pouring forth on the tribunal, or in writing." How this occurred, how the Reign of Terror reached even into the geographical regions of suggestion and language, is the topic of Caroline Weber's booklet, a revealing inspect the paradoxical embargo on loose expression that underpinned the Robespierrists' self-proclaimed "despotism of liberty" in the course of the French Revolution. Weber examines Jean-Jacques Rousseau's and the Robespierrists' articulation of a sequence of projects designed to curtail and regulate the dissemination of other political and philosophical messages within the republic. the following Weber underscores the interior contradictions and boundaries of an firm that promised common freedom whereas oppressing particularism, and that railed opposed to the very language that it used to be pressured to undertake as a primary political software. The e-book then makes a speciality of eloquent modern critics of this phenomenon, Desmoulins and the Marquis de Sade, the notorious libertine writer. Weber demonstrates how Desmoulins reconfigured the Montagnard regime's rhetoric to conjure up a political procedure in keeping with tolerance, no longer terror, and the way Sade deftly parodied the Robespierrists' brutality and hypocrisy, presenting a republic in line with the ruthless removing of dissident voices and at the unabashed party of despotism and bloodshed. A balanced account of ways the "discourse of totality" truly limited specific freedoms within the wake of the French Revolution, this ebook presents a hugely original-and timely-exposition of the political makes use of of rhetoric and of the hyperlinks among language and tool. Caroline Weber is assistant professor of Romance languages on the collage of Pennsylvania.
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Additional resources for Terror and Its Discontents: Suspect Words in Revolutionary France
45 For her, Kant’s conception of the sublime—which as we shall see turns on a special example of divine discourse—frames in a particularly illuminating way the radical (anti)discursive strategies that inform Rousseauist and Robespierrist political theory. While I am entirely in agreement with Huet’s ﬁndings, my aim here is both to expand upon some of her points about Kantian aesthetics and to supplement them by introducing another ﬁgure, Longinus, to the mix. The juxtaposition of the two theoreticians of the sublime is intended to emphasize the simultaneously representational and moral aspects of the condition or phenomenon that both philosophers dub sublime.
Gods would be needed,” he hypothesizes, “to give laws to men” (Contract 84). The author’s recourse to a conditional verb here reveals the profound implausibility of his proposition—a point to which I will return later on in this chapter, in discussing both the legislator’s and Rousseau’s own eﬀorts to reconcile theoretical language and practical action. For now, suﬃce it to say that Rousseau’s hypothetical prescription sidesteps the obviously problematic idea of traditional political “representation” by elected deputies, and sets the stage, however provisorily, for a sort of god incarnate, someone who will manage to transcend the frustrating divisions and diﬀerences inherent in earthly representation.
For time— along with subjective desire, error, and metaphor—represents another central ingredient in Rousseau’s wary speculations about how language works. We have already noted that he locates the origins of verbal expression in the passions (“man’s ﬁrst motives for speaking were passions”), and these forces are bound to subvert a structure of absolute generality insofar as they tend to vary over time. Love turns into hate, excitement yields to indiﬀerence, and so on; it is the very mutability of “pathological” feeling that disqualiﬁes it, in Kant’s philosophical system, as a categorically legitimate base of moral behavior.
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