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Open Access Constant and the Literature of the Moderns

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Constant's reputation rests on his characterization of the freedom of the moderns, a much-used formulation which we owe to him. This article claims, first, that Constant can equally be identified with what is here described as the literature of the moderns, and, second, that literature so conceived is historically and culturally important in grasping the significance of freedom seen as a central component of modernity, including the potential negativity of the negative freedom long associated with Constant. What the case of Constant shows is that the impact of the freedom of the moderns comes to be articulated as much in a literary as in a political framework. The article explores the extent to which Constant can be seen as a reference point in a rupture which is literary as much as political, and proposes accordingly a revised reading of his novel Adolphe. The substance of the literature of the moderns is decisively shaped by this dual shift, just as its poetics illustrates why the autonomy of literature is culturally significant when it comes to evaluating modern individualism.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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