The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures congratulates Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature Tili Boon Cuillé on the publication of her new book, Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France with Stanford University Press.
Exploring the affinities between the natural sciences and the fine arts, Cuillé examines the representation of natural phenomena—whether harmonious or discordant—in natural history, painting, opera, and the novel from Buffon and Rameau to Ossian and Staël. She demonstrates that philosophical, artistic, and emotional responses to the "spectacle of nature" in eighteenth-century France included wonder, enthusiasm, melancholy, and the "sentiment of divinity." These "passions of the soul," traditionally associated with religion and considered antithetical to enlightenment, were linked to the faculties of reason, imagination, and memory that structured Diderot's Encyclopédie and to contemporary theorizations of the sublime. As Cuillé reveals, the marvelous was not eradicated but instead preserved through the establishment and reform of major French cultural institutions dedicated to science, art, religion, and folklore that were designed to inform, enchant, and persuade.
This book has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.