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A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France$
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Ronald Schechter

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226499574

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226499604.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France

Ronald Schechter

University of Chicago Press

On September 5, 1793 the Jacobin Claude Royer introduced the popular expression, “Make terror the order of the day,” and over the next ten months variations on the slogan appeared repeatedly throughout France. (The author found 139 instances of the expression in the Archives Parlementaires and 600 cases of revolutionaries otherwise advocating “terror.”) This book aims to explain the popularity of terror speech, and by extension the Terror, in the Revolution and argues that a centuries-long history of positive connotations attaching to the word “terror” helps to explain both phenomena. The author employs an eclectic method, combining a Foucauldian-Nietzschean attention to discourse and “genealogy” with a more traditional Lovejovian focus on “unit ideas” and adapting William Reddy’s concept of “emotives” to account for the emotional charge of the word “terror.” The introduction concludes with a summary of the book’s eight chapters and an appeal to Herder’s concept of “feeling oneself into” an era that appears inaccessibly foreign.

Keywords:   French Revolution, Foucault, Herder, Lovejoy, intellectual history, Nietzsche, Reddy, William, Royer, Claude, Terror

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