Daily Archives: January 31, 2013

new blog alert: James W Schmidt’s Persistent Enlightenment

I recently discovered a new blog by James W Schmidt, whose anthology What is Enlightenment?: Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions I’ve always admired. It’s called Persistent Enlightenment, and it proposes to examine “the Enlightenment, considered both as an historical period and as an ongoing project.”

It’s only just started, but one of the first posts, about Diderot in contemporary American culture, and specifically in the NY Times, is an interesting exploration of why Diderot “ought” to have mattered to Americans from their founding forwards, but perhaps did not.  Significantly, the term “ought” is not Schmidt’s phrase, but Andrew Curran’s in his own NYTimes tribute to Diderot, and Schmidt explores the gap between is and ought in American intellectual history.

Having read Schmidt’s treatment of the intellectual history represented by the Times and its editorial choices, I wondered how large an influence Jacques Barzun might have had in the construction of a middle-brow Diderot and indeed Enlightenment in 20th century America, since it was probably his translations and introductions to Diderot that introduced me to the term Enlightenment many years ago. Thoughts?