Voltaire Historiographer

BookVoltaire Historiographer

Voltaire Historiographer

Narrative Paradigms

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2008:05


May 6th, 2008

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Voltaire’s historical works reflect his own changing roles and preoccupations from conteur to campaigner. His groundbreaking historical output of thirty-eight texts, composed throughout his long career as a writer, is now receiving renewed critical attention.
In the first study to explore the whole range of Voltaire’s writings in this domain, Síofra Pierse looks at the irreducible ambiguity of the term histoire, both factual truth and the way it is represented – ‘history’ and ‘story’. She discusses how Voltaire’s theories of history interact with other, more literary considerations, and analyses how a search for truth overlaps with a desire to create a compelling narrative that engages the reader in a deeper, collaborative, and polemical project.
In Voltaire historiographer: narrative paradigms, Síofra Pierse brings to light how the philosophe exploits the potential of history not simply to record the past, but to influence the present and shape the future.

'La force de Voltaire historiographer vient de ses analyses systématiques de la rhétorique de Voltaire, qui permettent à l’auteur de nous montrer un Voltaire plus subtil dans ses stratégies de narrer l’histoire que ses contemporains et ses prédécesseurs.[...] Ce livre vient à point après les livres et articles récents [...] sur les histoires de Voltaire, et pose des jalons pour de nouvelles recherches, qu’elles soient plus théoriques ou littéraires, sur les récits historiques de Voltaire.'
Cahiers Voltaire


Author Information

Síofra Pierse is Associate Professor in French and Head of SLCL at University College Dublin. She specialises in 18th-century French literature, is editor of The City in French Writing (UCD Press), co-editor of The Dark Side of Diderot (Peter Lang), author of Voltaire historiographer: Narrative Paradigms (Voltaire Foundation) and Voltaire: A Reference Guide (forthcoming).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of abbreviations12
Introdluction: Historiographerie16
i. Voltaire historian - Voltaire historiographer16
ii. The historical and historiographical corpora17
iii. Recent readings of Voltaire historian19
iv. Redefining Histoire21
v. Narrative paradigms22
I. Narrative26
1. The historiographer28
i. The rhetoric of a methodology30
ii. Subject-matter of history37
iii. On the aims and uses of history46
iv. Criticism of other historians51
v. Conclusion55
2. The author58
i. 'Voltaire', author59
ii. 'Je Voltaire': the writer62
iii. 'Je': portrait of a socialite65
iv. Authorial maxims73
v. Author as architect76
vi. Conclusion81
3. The reader84
i. The royal seal of approval86
ii. The ideal reader87
iii. Embracing the reader90
iv. Narrative roadmapping93
v. Links to aujourd'hui of writing96
vi. Named narrataires99
vii. Conclusion106
II Story108
4. Digressions110
i. Anti-war112
ii. 'Comme des fourmis'118
iii. Fanaticism: 'ce monstre'125
iv. The anecdote as digression134
v. Conclusion149
5. Heroics152
i. An exemplary grand homme154
ii. Epic inspirations155
iii. Heroic or fanatic?163
iv. The heroic formula165
v. Louis XIV, patron of the arts166
vi. Peter the Great169
vii. Heroines of history172
viii. A hierarchy of heroes177
ix. Conclusion181
III Truth184
6. Fact and fable186
i. The contemporary fable187
ii. Ancient history188
iii. Errors in history: faussetés196
iv. Proofs and sources210
v. Audi alteram partem213
vi. Conclusion220
7. Truth and doubt222
i. Truth and lies223
ii. Ten rungs on the truth ladder230
iii. Impedimenta236
iv. The shadow of doubt244
v. Conclusion250
Conclusion: beyond history254
Appendix: Corpus summary260