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Lisanne Jansen MA

PhD candidate


The Political Thought of Stéphanie-Félicité, comtesse de Genlis (1746 – 1830): Christian Traditions and Enlightenment Ideals

Leiden University
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Alicia Montoya en Prof. dr. Paul J. Smith
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2017

The political and religious ideas of canonical authors such as Diderot and Rousseau have often been considered to announce the French Revolution. Yet, these authors did not witness the Revolution themselves, nor were they necessarily the most widely read authors during the revolutionary years. Nevertheless, their works supposedly laid the groundwork of revolutionary ideals of secularism, human rights and equality, and are viewed as representative of ‘the’ Enlightenment. Such a monolithic view papers over the existence of different, competing intellectual movements during the eighteenth century. A study of the political thought of Madame de Genlis (1746-1830) will significantly contribute to our understanding of political thought during the Enlightenment because she was a) an influential public figure who witnessed the Revolution and the Restoration b) she was a widely read author in Europe who, from the viewpoint of reception, can compete with authors such as Rousseau and Diderot, and c) she wrote an important number of works in exile, which
allowed her to reflect on the new ideas and values of the revolutionary society she had left behind, from the perspective of a critical outsider.
Combining insights from the history of political ideas and studies on exile in literature, this project aims to answer the main question: How can Genlis’ political thought, especially her understanding of the revolutionary ideal of equality, be understood against the background of the competing Enlightenment movements that scholars have identified (Radical Enlightenment, Moderate Enlightenment, Religious Enlightenment, Counter-Enlightenment), and how did it further shape political discourse?