Published on June 18, 2014
D’Alembert’s Dream and Rameau’s Nephew by Denis Diderot Translated by Ian Johnston Denis Diderot (1713-1784), one of the major writers in eighteenth-century French culture, was a leading figure among those criticizing established traditional order and promoting radical reforms in French culture. Of his numerous works in a wide variety of styles, his best known today is Rameau’s Nephew a fictional dialogue between a mature narrator, often identified with Diderot himself, and a younger casual acquaintance, an intelligent, indigent social parasite and pimp. Their conversation ranges over a many subjects—the hypocrisy of French bourgeois society, developments in music, middle-class morality, the foolishness of those hostile to the Enlightenment, among others—and raises many provocative questions in a brilliantly ironic and amusing style. In the other controversial work included here—D’Alembert’s Dream, a sequence of three short dialogues—Diderot sets out his uncompromisingly materialistic and, in places, startlingly modern view of human life.