The Poetics of Evil and its Imagery in Voltaire’s Works

Joanna Ziobrowska

In his descriptions of this “world going round”, Voltaire touches upon the problem of evil, using mimesis and his trademark irony as tools. Scream, anxiety, and confusion over this “scandal for philosophers” are refl ected in his polemics with Leibniz. Th e spectacle of evil presents itself in Voltaire’s symbolic caricature of marionettes – in order to confront the ontological onus of evil with philosophical speculation. Th e mechanical descriptions, deformed characters, and grotesque juxtaposition of lucky and unlucky situations found in his “obsessive metaphors” make up his “aesthetics of ugliness”, whose attractive quality seems to unravel some of Voltaire’s myth. His “obsessive metaphors” of evil and his style negating the reality, world, and man create a theatre of nihilism and hopelessness in which Voltaire co-suff ers with his actors. Th e tragic and the comic are wed in the oxymoron of irony – the mood of the spirit – under the mask of which Voltaire hides the secrets of his imagination.

Keywords: poetics · evil · irony · obsessive metaphors · Voltaire

Joanna Ziobrowska – Ph.D. in French Literature. While at the Sorbonne, She participated in the seminars run by the “Centre for the Study of the French Language and Literature of the XVII and XVIII Centuries” (CELLF) – as part of her involvement she edited an analytical bibliography of critical reviews of Voltaire’s works. At present, she lectures in French literature and history and teaches French at the University of Zielona Góra. Her research focuses on the poetics of the image of The Other in the literature of the French Enlightenment. One of her other objectives is to establish regular scientific cooperation between the Sorbonne and the University of Zielona Góra.   »  

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