Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Robert W. Reichert


France was a land of turmoil in the Eighteenth Century. Attacked on a broad front, absolutism reeled and retreated before the challenge of Enlightenment rationalism. Though not established for the purpose of creating a battleground between liberal intellectuals and the royal authority, the French Academy was one field upon which the liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment challenged the preogatives (sic) of the Old Regime. Established with Cardinal Richelieu's support in 1635, though not officially recognized until 1637 by the Parlement of Paris which suspected the august Cardinal of some political motive under the guise of a literary society, the Academy proposed 11to give certain regulations to our French language and to make it pure, eloquent, and capable of expressing the arts and sciences." Royal protection and the prestige which the Academy acquired, however, made membership in it a coveted achievement. The Academy, thus, became embroiled in the conflict between the champions of the Old Regime and the philosophes: both wanted to control it. The philosophes, though negative toward existing institutions, wished to use this particular institution to enhance their own views. The Academy tried to exclude them, but could not.