Wednesday, August 18, 2004

On Voltaire and American Character

Why - it seems to me - is it that Voltaire's works are under-appreciated in the US given his extraordinary wit? Does there exist within the American character a trait that was acquired as a result of some uniquely American experience which would render Voltaire particularly unremarkable to the American person? A broader curiosity: does American character in general - as far as it is possible to identify it as such without gross miscategorizing - have a different sense of witticism compared to, say, French character?

While we are at it: is wit, when recognized as such, universal?

Also, given the great importance of Voltaire in fighting the prevailing abuse of dogmatism in his time, might his works not also be relevant in the present time when religious fundamentalism seems to be gaining ground once again? Fxs


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