Research Programs: Public Scholars

Period of Performance

10/1/2015 - 8/31/2016

Funding Totals

$46,200.00 (approved)
$46,200.00 (awarded)

French Enlightenment Philosopher and Critic Denis Diderot (1713-1784): The Art of Thinking Freely

FAIN: FZ-231476-15

Andrew S. Curran
Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT 06459-3208)

The writing of a biography of 18th-century thinker Denis Diderot, a peer of Voltaire and Rousseau and leading contributor to the world's first comprehensive encyclopedia.

The French Enlightenment philosopher and critic Denis Diderot (1713-84) dreamt of natural selection before Darwin, the Oedipus complex before Freud, and genetic manipulation centuries before Dolly the Sheep was born. Overshadowed by Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau during his lifetime, Diderot was nonetheless his era’s most dynamic and versatile writer, engaging with and writing on virtually all of his century’s forbidden subjects, including the (non-biblical) origin of the human species, the sexual abuse endured by nuns, as well as the race science underpinning the extremely profitable slave trade. This profoundly intriguing scientific and literary career, and the life that was its backdrop, are the subject of a “public scholar" intellectual biography that I am proposing to the NEH for funding.

Media Coverage

Many listed below (Review)
Author(s): Adam Gopnik
Publication: New Yorker
Date: 1/21/2020
Abstract: Dan Hofstadter, Wall Street Journal; Scott Russell Sanders, Washington Post; Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker; Stéphane Guegan, Le Monde; Matthew C. Simpson, The New Republic; Robert Zaretsky, Los Angeles Review of Books; Lynn Hunt; New York Review of Books; Publishers Weekly; Paul Burke, NB Magazine; Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review; Jonathan Power, New York Journal of Books; David Mason, Hudson Review; Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review; Tom Beer, Newsday; Sylvana Tomaselli, History Today; Matthew C. Simpson, The New Republic, Eric Banks, Bookforum; John Gray, New Statesman; Tom Chaffin, American Scholar; Patrick West, Catholic Herald; Kate Tunstall, London Review of Books; Rudi Rotthier, Knack; Peter Flom, Medium; Algis Valiunas, National Review; Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, Nexos; Hamilton dos Santos, Folha de Sao Paolo; Peter McPhee, Australian Book Review; Pedro Paulo Pimenta, Quatro cinco um, Business Insider; Miami Daily; Kirkus (starred review); Roger Bishop, BookPage (starred

Associated Products

Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely (Book)
Title: Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely
Author: Andrew S. Curran
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat entry (1590516702)
Publisher: Other Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 1590516702