The Super-Enlightenment

BookThe Super-Enlightenment

The Super-Enlightenment

Daring to Know Too Much

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2010:01


January 6th, 2010

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Historians of eighteenth-century thought have implied a clear distinction between mystical or occult writing, often termed ‘illuminist’, and better-known forms of Enlightenment thinking and culture. But where are the boundaries of ‘enlightened’ human understanding?
This is the question posed by contributors to this volume, who put forward a completely new way of configuring these seemingly antithetical currents of thought, and identify a grey area that binds the two, a ‘Super-Enlightenment’. Through articles exploring the social, religious, artistic, political and scientific dimensions of the Super-Enlightenment, contributors demonstrate the co-existence of apparent opposites: the enlightened and the esoteric, empiricism and imagination, history and myth, the secretive and the public, mysticism and science. The Enlightenment can no longer be seen as a sturdy, homogeneous movement defined by certain core beliefs, but one which oscillates between opposing poles in its social practices, historiography and even its epistemology: between daring to know, and daring to know too much.

'By turning their attention to figures sometimes pejoratively referred to as ‘illuminés’, the essays of this volume shed a new light on eighteenth-century thought, revalorizing often marginalized thinkers, revealing the complementarity of Super-Enlightenment and Enlightenment, and thus enhancing our understanding of the particular complexity of this period in the history of ideas.'
- French Studies

'The Super Enlightenment is most significant and valuable to Enlightenment studies for the opportunity it gives modern-day academics to reflect upon the intellectual and philosophical geography of the period, but also to reconsider how they study it. It opens the field to dialogue, allowing us to ask questions we may not have otherwise considered.'

Author Information

Dan Edelstein is the William H. Bonsall Professor of French and, by courtesy, History at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of 'On the Spirit of Rights' (Chicago, 2018). He is also active in the field of digital humanities, notably through the "Mapping the Republic of Letters" project.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations8
List of abbreviations10
DAN EDELSTEIN, Introduction to the Super-Enlightenment12
I. What limits of understanding?46
PETER REILL, The hermetic imagination in the high and late Enlightenment48
DAVID BATES, Super-epistemology64
JESSICA RISKIN, Mr Machine and the imperial me86
II. The arts of knowing106
LIANA VARDI, Physiocratic visions108
ANTHONY VIDLER, For the love of architecture: Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and the Hypnerotomachia134
FABIENNE MOORE, The poetry of the Super-Enlightenment: the theories and practices of Cazotte, Chassaignon, Mercier, Saint-Martin and Bonneville148
III. Sacred societies178
NATALIE BAYER, What do you seek from us? Wisdom? Virtue? Enlightenment? Inventing a Masonic science of man in Russia180
KRIS PANGBURN, Bonnet’s theory of palingenesis: an ‘Enlightened’ account of personal resurrection?202
DAN EDELSTEIN, The Egyptian French Revolution: antiquarianism, Freemasonry and the mythology of nature226
TILI BOON CUILLÉ, From myth to religion in Ossian’s France254