The question of what it means to be remembered pervades cultural production in early modern Europe. Ronsard wrote of the secular afterlife available to the poet in the late sixteenth-century, stating that ‘les doctes folies de poëtes survivront les innombrables siècles à venir, criant la gloire des princes consacrés par eux à l’immortalité’. Two hundred years later, Diderot's Encyclopédie definition of 'Immortalité' similarly made a distinction between the 'homme d'action' and the 'homme de lettres' whose art would ensure the former's lasting memory, whilst a discussion of the posterity available to the artist would famously occupy vast tranches of Diderot's epistolary exchange with the sculptor Falconet. And Marmontel, also writing in the Encyclopédie, declared that true 'gloire' was being known 'où vous n'êtes pas; où vous ne serez jamais'.

The eighteenth century in particular seems to mark a watershed moment, as a certain confluence of social and intellectual changes lent the idea of future glory a particular charge for cultural producers. The growth of the public sphere, a new concept of the ‘grand homme’ focused on individual achievement rather than high birth, a decline in patronage and institutionalisation and an increasing secularism all meant that access to the secular afterlife of posterity was not only more pressing, but also more in the hands of the individual than ever before. 

This project analyses the concept of posterity in the early modern period. Moving away from traditional studies of the posterity of an individual, or a work, or even a century, it asks how early modern practitioners conceived of and tried to manage their own afterlives. Though our first event focuses on eighteenth-century France, we hope in the future to expand the project geographically and temporally, so please do let us know if you would like to be involved by emailing earlymodernposterity@gmail.comIf you are interested in being kept informed about the project as it develops, please enter your details here (check your spam for the confirmation email if you don't receive it within ten minutes or so), and follow us on twitter @EMPosterity.

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  • Welcome Welcome to our site. We will be adding a lot of information on the conference over the next couple of weeks, so keep a look out for the programme and ...
    Posted Jan 14, 2015, 8:40 AM by Early Modern Posterity
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