Andrew Curran (Wesleyan) to Discuss Book on Diderot at Princeton Library

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Andrew Curran, the writer of a popular biography of French philosopher Denis Diderot, will discuss his book at the Princeton Library in January 2019. Read on to learn more.

Andrew Curran (Wesleyan), the writer of a popular book called "Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely," will discuss the book about well-known French philosopher Denis Diderot at the Princeton Library in January 2019.

During the event, which will take place on Jan. 23 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Curran will explain what drove him to create a biography of Diderot, a sympathetic and prophetic philosopher known for helping to build the modern world’s foundations. For instance, Diderot is known for helping to bring to fruition the first full Encyclopédie in the world. However, some of the most dauntless writing he did occurred behind the scenes.

Diderot’s daring writing eventually got him in trouble; for example, he was thrown into prison for being an atheist in 1749. However, he did have some big fans in his day, including Catherine the Great, who supported Diderot financially and also welcomed him to visit St. Petersburg to discuss the idea of making the Russian empire a democracy. In his book, Curran talks about his iconoclastic viewpoints regarding art, morality, religion, theater, and politics. Curran also discusses his challenging relationship with philosopher Jean-Jacques Rosseau, as well as his intriguing correspondence with French writer Voltaire.

Still, readers today can enjoy his best works, which he reserved for posterity. In several unpublished writings that were introduced following his death, Diderot vigorously challenged nearly all of the accepted truths of his century. For instance, he challenged the monarchy’s sanctity, the slave trade’s racial justification, and even human sexuality norms.

Curran was recently highlighted in an article in The Guardian on Dec. 15, 2018, which discussed how Diderot’s political writing is now prescient during the era of President Donald Trump.

The Princeton Library event at which Curran will take place at 65 Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. The event has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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