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Bentham and the Arts seminar: Prof. Emmanuelle de Champs (Cergy-Pointoise)

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Moot Court, Bentham House

London

WC1H 0EG

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Emmanuelle de Champs (Cergy-Pointoise)

Bentham and Dumont on Taste and Literature

In 1797, while he was working on Bentham’s French manuscripts, Etienne Dumont remarked: “In his treaty on Rewards, B. severely attacks literary critics, and especially Addison. ... If this observation was founded, if evil truly was caused, one would have to abandon all literary criticism, one could not point out the flaws of any work of imagination for fear of hurting authors and diminishing the pleasure of those who admire them.” Starting from this quote, we will first explore the sources of Dumont’s opinion about Bentham’s ideas on taste. It will be shown that before On Sexual Morality and Not Paul but Jesus: Part III, many of his ideas had been put forward and tested in still little-known French manuscripts. Then, we will look at how Dumont dealt with these ideas, especially those he disagreed with, in his French versions of Bentham’s texts published from 1802 to 1826. Finallly, we will place Dumont’s reaction in the context of early French Romanticism, and compare it with that of one of the most influential literary critics of the time, Germaine de Staël.

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Moot Court, Bentham House

London

WC1H 0EG

United Kingdom

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