Prolific author, philosopher, social reformer, and successful businessman, Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Enlightenment as well as a friend and advisor to some of the most important monarchs of Europe, including Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia. A fierce critic of the Church, religion, and aristocratic privilege, he offended many powerful interests, but also helped lay the foundations of a modern society based on the rule of law and reason.
On Friday night Keith Baker, the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor in Humanities and the Jean-Paul Gimon Director of the France-Stanford Center of Stanford University, will discuss “Voltaire’s Wager,” in which Voltaire represents the epitome of the new spirit of secular engagement with the world we know as the Enlightenment. Baker will suggest the terms of Voltaire’s wager on humanity, the challenges it faced, and its long-term implications.
Maria Cheremeteff, Head of the Art History Department at City College of San Francisco and Lecturer at both the De Young and Legion of Honor Museums in San Francisco, in an illustrated lecture will demonstrate how paintings by Jacques-Louis David in the Neoclassical style become a symbol of the new rational order of the French Republic. The Republic required a new set of images and allegories to propagate the enlightened notion of representational rule. These ideas found voice in David’s paintings. His apprropriation of Greek and Roman subject matter and the new classical style he developed ideally suited to promote the values of liberty, equality, civic duty, and sacrifice.
On Saturday morning David Bodanis, award-winning author and Lecturer at Oxford University, will discuss his book Passionate Minds. This is the fascinating account of Voltaire, his mistress, Émilie du Châtelet, who was a brilliant scientist in her own right, and their joint intellectual projects. Roger Hahn, Emeritus Professor at UC Berkeley, will speak on Voltaire as author, philosopher, and supreme intellectual influence of the eighteenth century: his ideas, influences, and writings. On Saturday afternoon David Morris, acclaimed cellist and violist, will perform the works of Rameau on viola de gamba, along with David Wilson on violin and Katherine Heater on the harpischord. Kip Cranna, Musical Administrator of the San Francisco Opera, will discuss the composers of the Enlightenment.
Moderator: Roger Hahn, Professor Emeritus of History University of California Berkeley
Friday October 5, 2007
The French Enlightenment
Keynote Address Voltaire’s Wager
As poet, playwright, philosopher, and pamphleteer, Voltaire defined and epitomized the new spirit of secular engagement with the world we know as the Enlightenment. Keith M. Baker (Stanford University) will suggest the terms of his wager on humanity, the challenges it faced, and its long-term implications
Lecture Jacques-Louis David and the Iconography of the Revolution
Maria Cheremeteff (City College of San Francisco) will illustrate how paintings by David in the Neoclassical style become a symbol of the new rational order of the French Republic. The Republic required a new set of images and allegories to propagate the enlightened notion of representational rule. These ideas found voice in paintings by Jacques-Louis David. Appropriation of Greek and Roman subject matter and the new classical style he developed were ideally suited to promote the values of liberty, equality, civic duty and sacrifice.
Saturday October 6, 2007
Voltaire and Other Thinkers
Lecture Émilie du Châtelet
Émilie du Châtelet was a fencer, gambler, brilliant mathematician and passionate lover. David Bodanis (Oxford University, Author of Passionate Minds) will discuss how she and her close friend Voltaire helped create the French Enlightenment.
Lecture Voltaire’s Views on Religion
Voltaire was a major intellectual influence of the eighteenth century. Roger Hahn (University of California, Berkeley) will discuss how one squares Voltaire’s taunts against Judaism with his campaign for tolerance.
Katherine Heater(harpsichord), David Morris(viola de gamba), and David Wilson(violin), playPièce de claveçin en concert #1 in C minor by Jean Philippe Rameau.
Lecture and Demonstration Opera and the Enlightenment: Trusting the Happy Ending
Voltaire had a profound influence on opera in the Enlightenment era and beyond, significantly impacting the intellectual and political ideals of composers and librettists. Foremost was Voltaire’s concept of just government embodied in the “Enlightened Despot”–one who employs rational judgment to rule wisely, fostering tolerance, freedom of the press, and property rights, while promoting the arts, science, and education. Closely allied with this theory was the principle of a happy dramatic outcome in opera through the triumph of human reason over the forces of cruelty, hatred, and revenge. San Francisco Opera’s Musical Administrator Clifford (Kip) Cranna will explore these themes using video examples to illustrate how Voltairean thought influenced opera composers like Rameau, Handel, Mozart, and Rossini, and discussing the ways in which contemporary opera directors deal with Enlightenment ideals
Moderator Roger Hahn will lead a panel discussion with questions from the audience.
Keith Baker, History, Stanford
David Bodanis, writer
Maria Cheremeteff, Art History, City College San Francisco
Kip Cranna, Musicology, SF Opera
Roger Hahn, History, UC Berkeley
David Morris, viola da gamba,