Voltairean Readings 2020: How to study the Enlightenment today?

29-30 October 2020

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the term Enlightenment had thus far appeared in a growing number of publications in the field of historical research. The study of this intellectual and cultural movement, which laid the foundations of our own times, calls for reflection upon the methods and parameters of our research. For this conference, we suggest four subjects:

  1. The periodisation of Enlightenment is a concept that remains the subject of debate, and the question of its place in the history of ideas still needs to be clarified. Studies around the history of the word itself and of the concept, of the texts and images in which these were developed, represent an area of research that is far from being exhausted.
  2. A second avenue for research examines afresh the material realities of the circulation of books and ideas in the eighteenth century: the study of intellectual and business relationships and sources of knowledge, sheds new light on forgotten figures from the world of publishing and the book trade, as well as on ‘minor’ writers, scholars and philosophers. New digital tools, such as databases, inventories, and digital and interactive mapping, offer rich opportunities and encourage new research.
  3. One more area of research is the historical consideration of the writing and publishing process, from the emergence of the text to its ultimate appearance in print.
  4. Finally, among the phenomena of reception, re-investment, and re-writing of the Enlightenment, attention can be drawn to artistic practices, including in the context of mass culture, which reveal today’s challenges of our reading of the Enlightenment, its relevance and presence.

This conference has been conceived as an invitation to continue research into this phenomenon that changed “our common way of thinking” (to quote Diderot’s own words in the Encyclopédie), bringing our questions into dialogue with this ever-present historical adventure.

Please fill in the registration form, including the topic of your paper, along with an abstract (200-250 words), to be returned by 30 June 2020.

The organising committee reserves the right to select proposals that fit the Lectures voltairiennes 2020 programme.

Papers can be given in Russian, English or French.

Each participant is asked to speak for no longer than 20 minutes.

Travel and hotel costs to be covered by the participants.

The conference proceedings will be published in the following issue of Lectures voltairiennes.



National Library of Russia, Rare Book Department,
‘Centre for the Study of the Enlightenment – The Voltaire Library,
Head librarian Natalia Speranskaya
Email: voltaire@nlr.ru
Tel. +7 (812) 407-42-66
18 Sadovaya Street
191069 St Petersburg

For help with hotel reservations

Mrs Zlata Gravshina
Email: vgravshina@mail.ru
Tel. +7 (812) 767-13-79, +7 (952) 236-31-96