Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal: François Bernier, Marguerite de la Sablière, and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France
Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal identifies and explores the traces that exposure to India left on the cultural artifacts and mindset of France’s "Great Century" and the early Enlightenment. Focusing on the salon of Marguerite de La Sablière and its encounter with the traveler and philosopher François Bernier, this book resurrects the conversations about India inspired by Bernier’s travels and inscribed in his influential texts produced in collaboration with La Sablière’s salon. The literary works, correspondences, and philosophical texts produced by the members of this eclectic salon bear the traces of this engagement with India.
Faith E. Beasley’s analysis of these conversations reveals France’s unique engagement with India during this period and challenges prevailing images derived from a nineteenth-century "orientalism" imbued with colonialism. The India encountered in La Sablière’s salon through Francois Bernier and others is not the colonized India that has come to dominate any image of the Orient. Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal adds a new chapter to literary and cultural history by adopting a new approach to the study of salon culture, exploring how texts, cultural artifacts, and patterns of thought were shaped by the collective reading and by the conversations emanating from these practices. Beasley’s analysis highlights the unique role of French salon culture in the evolution of western thought during the early modern period.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 384 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.3in x 9.3in
"This book skillfully raises tensions between the nature of absolutism and foreign influence."
Susan Mokhberi, Rutgers University at Camden
H-France Review, vol 19 no. 168, August '19
"This rich and timely work combines close analysis of texts, images, and objects with historical contextualization and broad methodological reflections."
Olivia Tolley, Jesus College, Cambridge
"Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal is a major contribution to our understanding of the work of Bernier, his place in the early modern history of travel, and his contribution to the genre of the travel narrative. Beasley paves the way for further study of how the accounts of Bernier and other travellers influenced French imaginative literature, especially the novel."
Elizabeth Goldsmith, Department of Romance Studies, Boston University
"I firmly believe that Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal will represent one of the most interesting contributions to French studies in the decade. Beasley’s image of India fosters a better understanding of diversity in France in its rich traditions - literary, cultural, gender-related, and political - because this image was mediated through the social milieu of the women’s salon in seventeenth-century France, notably the gathering of Madame de La Sablière."
Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Swarthmore College
"The ease and pleasure with which Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal reads belies the hard-hitting contributions it makes to French literary and cultural studies. When Beasley sets out to understand the engagement of two of the seventeenth-century’s most eminent women writers with India - what India might have meant to Sévigné and Lafayette, and more broadly to France in these pivotal years of cultural consolidation – she creates a new and experimental methodology that imaginatively reconstructs the "conversation" out of which Bernier’s writings about Mughal India, and the salon-produced literature of Lafayette, Sévigné, La Fontaine, and Fontenelle, emerged."
Claire Goldstein, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Davis
Author InformationFaith E. Beasley is a professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College
Table of contents
Introduction: Reconstructing the Past
1. Communities and Conversation
2. Salons, Seraglios, and Social Networking
3. ‘Think Different:’ Fables, Philosophy, and Diversity
4. ‘La Guerre des Etoffes:’ A Taste for India
Subjects and Courses