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Prospects of Decay: Reflecting on Rusty Language and the Decadence of Taste in Eighteenth-Century France

Feb 10, 2023 | 02:00 PM c.t.

Workshop with Jessica Stacey (Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow, Institut für Romanische Philologie)

+ + + The Workshop is postponed. Please check back for updates. + + +

The workshop deals with the discourse on rust and decadence in scholarly and poetic literature in eighteenth-century France. In a first step, we ask what the metaphors poets used to talk about their language can tell us about how they understood the specific genius and character of French, what separates poetry from other registers, and what the nature of the work they themselves did with language consists in. The temporal focus is on the eighteenth century, but these later figures will be contextualized within the long-term tradition of that specific literary discourse. The notion of ‘rusty language’ will be placed alongside other technical and organic imagery. Seeking the specific knowledge transfer inherent in this figurative discourse, we will explore the range of positions open to writers engaging with language as a plant to be tended or a tool to be mastered and, crucially, as a historically situated entity which undergoes, for better or worse, change over time.

This discourse will then be contextualised within the aesthetic debates of the “concours académique”, that is the prize contests of the French academies, which in the eighteenth century reached a broad and diverse audience. Here, questions on taste and its decay also played an important part. By turning to the discourse on decadence and its characteristic metaphors within the popular medium of the prize competitions we seek to gain further insights into the knowledge transfer connected with this particular aesthetic discourse in eighteenth-century French literature.


Welcome and Introduction
Anita Traninger (Institut für Romanische Philologie / SFB 980)

Can rusty language be poetic language? Some metaphors for the writer’s medium and craft
Jessica Stacey (Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow, Institut für Romanische Philologie)

Coffee break

The discourse on the decadence of taste in the concours académique (1720–1760)
Martin Urmann (SFB 980)

Time & Location

Feb 10, 2023 | 02:00 PM c.t.

Collaborative Research Center “Episteme in Motion”,
Freie Universität Berlin
Schwendenerstraße 8
Conference room

Further Information

Please register with: martin.urmann@fu-berlin.de