Staging immensity: Subject and scene of sensation in the philosophical art of Denis Diderot

1997 1997

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Abstract (summary)

This study, in examining the development of the esthetic and ethical spaces of Denis Diderot's (1713-84) philosophical art among eighteenth-century materialist and sensationalist doctrines, addresses, in particular, the intuition of the founding scene of human understanding that unfolds in his writings during a period spanning the late 1750's through the early 1770's. During these years, which coincided with the completion of the editorial work on the Encyclopedie, Diderot produced his most important texts on the theater, wrote the greatest and most lengthy of his critical pieces for the Salons, began work on or completed major works such as The Nun, The Nephew of Rameau, D'Alembert's Dream, and The Paradox of the Comedian; and he began gathering notes for what would become The Elements of Physiology, first published nearly one hundred years after his death. The intent of this study is twofold: a reading of the major works of Diderot's middle years that seeks to further recent yet still limited speculation on the phenomenological implications of the Diderotian topos of subjectivity combines with a parallel interrogation which returns current readings of Diderot to the most ancient sources of his poetic genius. The singular force of Diderot's intuition and the characteristic topos of his materialist vision of the scene of human understanding that differentiates his notion of "general sensibility" from the dominant sensationalist theories of his time lies with the recognition of a paradoxical and resonating "order" governing the production of all knowledge and of representation in general, a profoundly sensuous order which engages the constitutive matter of subjectivity and sensation in an active, extravagantly performative manner refusing all ideas of transcendence and resistant to any reduction of subjects to mere passivity. Diderot's philosophical art invites the reader to enter a vast theater of contagious energies where knowledge, truth, and beauty can come into being only as rhythmic occurrences, sensible events demanding interaction with and exposure to another body imagined as radical alterity and opening upon an "immensity of possibles."

Indexing (details)

Romance literature
0729: Architecture
0422: Philosophy
0313: Romance literature
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Communication and the arts; Language, literature and linguistics; Diderot, Denis; France
Staging immensity: Subject and scene of sensation in the philosophical art of Denis Diderot
Rameika, Ilze Daina
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 58/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780591501636, 0591501635
Leatherbarrow, David
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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