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Town Hall Seattle: Arts & Culture Series

Town Hall’s Arts & Culture series elevates the voices of local artists while bringing world-renowned cultural icons to Seattle audiences. The series celebrates music, photography, sculpture, philosophy, heritage, and traditions around the world that enrich our lives.

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May 21, 2019

Denis Diderot is often associated with the decades-long battle to bring the world’s first comprehensive Encyclopédie into existence. But his most daring writing took place in the shadows. Andrew Curran, professor of Humanities and French at Wesleyan University, made his way to Town Hall’s stage to deliver insight from Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, a spirited biography of the prophetic and sympathetic philosopher who helped build the foundations of the modern world.

Curran showed us a comprehensive portrait of Diderot—his tormented relationship with Rousseau, his curious correspondence with Voltaire, his passionate affairs, and his often iconoclastic stands on art, theater, morality, politics, and religion. Curran told us the ways which this 18th century French philosopher was centuries ahead of his time and challenged virtually all of his century’s accepted truths, from the sanctity of monarchy, to the racial justification of the slave trade, to the norms of human sexuality. Join Curran for a vivid account of a thinker whose works still edify us today.

Andrew Curran is the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities and Professor of French at Wesleyan University. He is the author Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely. His previous books include The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment, and Sublime Disorder, Physical Monstrosity in Diderot’s Universe.

Recorded live at The Forum at Town Hall Seattle on May 13, 2019.