Tili Boon Cuillé

Professor of French and Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies in French
Core faculty in the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities
Affiliate faculty in Performing Arts and Film and Media Studies
PhD, University of Pennsylvania
research interests:
  • 18th-Century French Literature, Philosophy, and Aesthetics
  • Opera Studies
  • History of Science
  • History of Emotion
  • Material Culture
  • Book Illustration
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    • Monday and Wednesday 1:30-2:30 pm
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    • Washington University
    • MSC 1077-146-310
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Tili Boon Cuillé's teaching and research focus on eighteenth-century French literature, philosophy, and aesthetics, particularly the debates about the musical, visual, and performing arts.

    Tili Boon Cuillé is the author of Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France (Stanford, 2021), made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and of Narrative Interludes: Musical Tableaux in Eighteenth-Century French Texts (Toronto, 2006). She is co-editor of Staël’s Philosophy of the Passions: Sensibility, Society, and the Sister Arts (Bucknell, 2013) and of a special issue on “Passion, Perception, and Performance" for Philological Quarterly. She has published articles on natural history, opera, painting, and the novel in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Opera Quarterly, and European Romantic Review, among others. She was a Faculty Fellow at the Center for the Humanities on the subject of “Affect” and participated in the Folger Workshop on “The Languages of Nature: Science, Literature, and the Imagination,” the Bloomington Eighteenth-Century Studies Workshop on “Falsehood, Forgeries, Fraud: The Fake Eighteenth-Century,” the NEH summer seminar at Princeton University on “Opera: Interpretation Between Disciplines,” and the summer seminar at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies on “Opera in Context: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Creation, Performance, and Reception.” Her recent interests include the history of science, the history of emotion, material culture, and book illustration.

    In Professor Cuillé’s graduate and undergraduate seminars, students are invited to investigate French literature and the arts from the vantage of philosophy, aesthetics, literary theory, and cultural studies. Recent topics include economies of desire, the science of sensibility, self-fashioning, and utopian fiction. She offers inter-arts courses that span the Enlightenment through Modernity on the themes of cultural constructs, transmediation, and virtual reality. She has also taught opera studies courses for the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities and the Summer Humanities Institute. Professor Cuillé strives to place the students in the position of spectator, critic, or consumer by extending the classroom to include exhibitions and performances. She also co-convenes the Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Salon.

    Divining Enlightenment Art and Science

    The Salon: Structuring the Art of Conversation

    Into the Vault: The Encyclopédie

    Faculty Spotlight: Interdisciplinary Interests in Education

    Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France

    Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France

    The Enlightenment remains widely associated with the rise of scientific progress and the loss of religious faith, a dual tendency that is thought to have contributed to the disenchantment of the world. In her wide-ranging and richly illustrated book, Tili Boon Cuillé questions the accuracy of this narrative by investigating the fate of the marvelous in the age of reason. 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.