Voltaire and the Enlightenment

Arguably, Voltaire epitomized and embodied the Enlightenment. Through a vast array of writings spanning disparate literary forms – including poems, plays, short stories and novellas, histories, philosophy, political activism, polemics, science, and a voluminous correspondence – Voltaire’s impact can hardly be overestimated. However, while he served as a champion for many, a large number of people disagreed with his positions, aims, and methods. In addition, while he symbolized criticism by the pen and the Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and rights, he did not always practice what he preached. This seminar will use his writings to examine the complicated nature of Voltaire’s legacy.