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The Shock of the AncientLiterature and History in Early Modern France$
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Larry F. Norman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226591483

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226591506.001.0001

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conclusion After the Quarrel

conclusion After the Quarrel

(p.213) CONCLUSION After the Quarrel
The Shock of the Ancient

Larry F. Norman

University of Chicago Press

Voltaire sums up the guiding principles developed by the French defenders of the ancients: the necessity of reading the original work with sensitivity to the materiality of its native language; the preference for the imperfect “genius of invention” over the mechanical operations of “mere reason and exactitude”; the celebration of sublime inspiration operating “without art, without rules”; and, finally, the emblematic image of poetry not as philosophical enlightenment but as Longinian sunbursts and “flashes of lightning.” Yet when Voltaire expresses his debt to the people who helped him grasp these grounding principles, he cites not his compatriots Boileau or Boivin, but the English bard himself and his British admirers. The tolerant, empirical, and sublimely inspired English appear to advance all the causes of the Ancient movement. As for the case of Homer, Voltaire in particular draws upon an image of the epic poet deeply etched in the public mind by Alexander Pope's monumental 1715 translation of the Iliad.

Keywords:   ancients, native language, quarrel, Voltaire, Ancient movement, sublime

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