LE BIZARRE AND LE DECOUSU IN THE NOVELS AND THEORETICAL WORKS OF DENIS DIDEROT How the Idea of Marginality Originated in Eighteenth Century France

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This book examines the background of our modern concept of marginality by focusing on Diderot’s materialist philosophy and his search for the origins of genius, and locating it within the French Enlightenment quest for truth.


“This particular study fills a gap in the current understanding of Diderot’s oeuvres because it elaborates a constellation of ideas in the author’s work, that in aggregate illuminates not only the great philosophical enterprise of the Age of Enlightenment, but also sheds new light on the background of our present concept of marginality. In a stunning example of “absence is presence,” the missing term, “marginality,” in Diderot’s work, when replaced as a thematic guide in this study, provides the key to understanding a central aspect of the Enlightenment’s scientific and literary projects.” – Prof. Jennifer Vanderheyden, Marquette University

“Through its analysis of Diderot’s inquiry into the links between social exclusion, mental illness, disability, and the creative process in science, the arts, literature, and philosophy, this book enriches our understanding of Diderot’s works in their eighteenth-century context and is relevant to our time.” – Prof. Karen Sullivan, Queens College

“Not only does Abrams’ study greatly illuminate and facilitate our understanding of Diderot and his quest for truth through psychological insight during the Enlightenment, but this analysis also astutely anticipates prominent themes that thread through Romantic literature and continue with the idea of alienation and marginality in the modern world as well.” – Prof. Camille Weiss, Suffolk University

"... offers a clear and precise description of how marginality was percieved and presented in the eighteenth century. ... offers a valuable study which will appeal to scholars of eighteenth-century literature, philosophy and sociology." -- Forum for Modern Language Studies

Table of Contents

1. Tracing the Margins: Defining Marginality in Context
2. Enlightened Insanity: Pathways to the Margin in Le Neveu de Rameau
3. Against Her Will: Forced Marginality in La Religieuse
4. Diderot’s Unholy Grail: The Bizarre and Unraveled Quest
Conclusion : Diderot, Truth and “Le délire philosophique”