Popularization and/or Trivialization of Philosophy in Voltaire's Narrative Candide or Optimism

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Abstract

Voltaire produced his works within the literary-historical period of Classicism and Enlightenment, in which the prevalent role of literature was educational. The period also dictated what genre, theme, style and structure authors should follow. However, more and more changes of literary genres appear, and the process of stratification of literature into high and trivial takes place. The aim of this paper is to describe the polarization of two mutually different processes involved in the literary shaping of Voltaire's philosophical narrative Candide or Optimism. In Voltaire's narrative, the popularization of philosophy, in order to simplify and illuminate the philosophical writings of G. W. Leibniz, results in the changes of style and content that become understandable to the general readership since they work within the scheme of an adventure novel. In this process, trivialization does not affect only the genre, but is also present in other parts of literary analysis and interpretation such as the theme, motifs, structure, characterization, narrative techniques, stylistic features, and so on.

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