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Goodliffe, Marie-France, «La jonction des savoirs dans deux romans de Diderot : une étude comparée de “La Religieuse” et du “Neveu de Rameau”», Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, thèse de doctorat, 2003, 285 p. Dir. : Eric Annandale.
The object of this thesis is to compare two novels, which the philosopher and encyclopédiste Denis Diderot wrote at the period of his life when he was looking for a new literary treatment to give his materialist view of man. This study attempts to illustrate how, in replacement of the dualistic approach to mind and body, Diderot applies in La Religieuseand Le Neveu de Rameau a unified corporeal notion of sensibility in his representation of the human condition. Through constant descriptions of the reactive body Diderot succeeds in conveying discursively the thoughts, feelings and sensations the characters are experiencing. This study aims at demonstrating how Diderot uses sensibility as a unifying paradigm of the physical and moral nature of man through his appropriation of terminology and concepts from different fields of specialization such as physiology, philosophy, aesthetics and literature, linked together into a both poetic and precise new novelistic idiom. The attentive reading required to appreciate the transformations of meaning and metaphoric use undergone by certain terms in La Religieuse and Le Neveu de Rameau, makes the reader aware of the philosophical, moral and aesthetic possibilities emerging from the novelistic model of non-reductive materialism. The conclusion is drawn that both these apparently dissimilar novels belong to a common aesthetics that allows Diderot to work out moral and intellectual problems and to experiment with the possibilities of reaching and challenging a new kind of enlightened reader.
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