Catalogue


Making way for genius : the aspiring self in France from the old regime to the new /
Kathleen Kete.
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2012.
description
x, 240 p.
ISBN
0300174829 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780300174823 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2012.
isbn
0300174829 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780300174823 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
The aspiring self in France from the old regime to the new -- Genius, Madame de Staël, and the soul of prodigious success -- Vocation, Stendhal, and the art of living ethically -- Destiny, cuvier, and post-revolutionary politics -- Friendship matters; arguments from Egypt; coda on Napoleon -- Ambition in post-revolutionary lives.
catalogue key
8384504
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-11-01:
Kete's remarkable study draws on the lives and writings of three outstanding French intellectuals to show the development of the idea of genius during the Great Revolution, the First Empire, and the Bourbon Restoration. Each of the three saw the exceptional individual very differently. Germaine de Stael, who became the great critic of Napoleon, saw genius as the ability to fully understand and facilitate creativity in others. Henri Beyle, the novelist who struggled to find a direction for his own life, reached the conclusion that those who thought themselves gifted with genius were headed toward insanity and self-destruction. Finally, Georges Cuvier, the celebrated paleontologist, saw genius as an inexplicable quality that unfolded itself in rare individuals. (Cuvier thought he was one such individual.) Kete (Trinity College) argues (with signal clarity) that the upheavals that occurred in France over this period marked the end of traditional society based on corporate values, and that Stael, Beyle, and Cuvier represent a profound shift in individual psychology that marks the beginning of the contemporary world. It is not enough to say that Kete has written a very good work of intellectual history. She has, in fact, provided an example of how one can rethink the past and the present. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. S. Bailey emeritus, Knox College
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Genius, vocation, destiny: Kathleen Kete follows these grand themes through the facts and fiction of a host of fascinating lives, showing how French men and women at the turn of the nineteenth century negotiated their fears of a powerful forceambitionunleashed by the tumults of Revolution. Her scholarship is thorough, her writing elegant, her insights fresh and timely. This is an admirable book."Darrin M. McMahon, author of Happiness: A History
"A fascinating, elegant and thought-provoking book that makes a significant contribution to modern European cultural history."David A. Bell, Princeton University
"The analysis is smart, sure-footed, and highly readable, and the book is guaranteed to attract much attention from all historians and other Europeanists interested in Romantic culture, post-Revolutionary politics, and the discovery of the modern 'self.'"Jay M. Smith, author of The Culture of Merit: Nobility, Royal Service, and the Making of Absolute Monarchy in France, 16001789
"The analysis is smart, sure-footed, and highly readable, and the book is guaranteed to attract much attention from all historians and other Europeanists interested in Romantic culture, post-Revolutionary politics, and the discovery of the modern 'self.'"Jay M. Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"A fascinating, elegant and thought-provoking book that makes a significant contribution to modern European cultural history."David Bell, Princeton University
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 2012
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Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Examining the lives and works of three iconic personalities - Germaine de Staël, Stendhal, and Georges Cuvier - Kathleen Kete creates a cultural history of ambition in post-Revolutionary France.
Main Description
Examining the lives and works of three iconic personalities Germaine de Stael, Stendhal, and Georges CuvierKathleen Kete creates a groundbreaking cultural history of ambition in post-Revolutionary France. While in the old regime the traditionalist view of ambition prevailedthat is, ambition as morally wrong unless subsumed into a corporate wholethe new regime was marked by a rising tide of competitive individualism. Greater opportunities for personal advancement, however, were shadowed by lingering doubts about the moral value of ambition. Kete identifies three strategies used to overcome the ethical "burden" of ambition: romantic genius (Stael), secular vocation (Stendhal), and post-mythic destiny (Cuvier). In each case, success would seem to be driven by forces outside one's control. She concludes by examining the still relevant (and still unresolved) conundrum of the relationship of individual desires to community needs, which she identifies as a defining characteristic of the modern world.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
The Aspiring Self in France from the Old Regime to the Newp. 1
Genius, Madame de Staël, and the Soul of Prodigious Successp. 23
Vocation, Stendhal, and the Art of Living Ethicallyp. 73
Destiny, Cuvier, and Post-Revolutionary Politicsp. 107
Friendship Matters; Arguments from Egypt; Coda on Napoleonp. 145
Ambition in Post-Revolutionary Livesp. 168
Notesp. 181
Indexp. 229
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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