University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > The politics and physiology of laughter in eighteenth-century France: the Saint-Aubins’ Livre des Culs

The politics and physiology of laughter in eighteenth-century France: the Saint-Aubins’ Livre des Culs

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The Saint-Aubins formed a dynasty of artists and craftsmen in eighteenth-century France. The best-known of them is Gabriel, who currently has an international exhibition devoted to him (New York, Paris). He and his brothers kept a number of sketch-books, one of which, owned by Waddesdon Manor, is the subject of the talk. The Livre de caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises is largely the work of Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, though it is in essence a collective work seemingly produced both by and for what Antoine de Baecque has termed a ‘society of laughers’. The brothers are said to have referred to it as their livre de culs. Although there are indeed some arses in the book – including some famous ones, knowledge of whose depiction would have ended the Saint-Aubins in the Bastille – the characteristic of the work is its festive, humorous and frequently satirical character. The kind of caricature and satire it exemplifies is quite rare in France (England was different in this respect). In this paper, we will seek to examine the work and to place it in the context of French eighteenth-century medical, philosophical and political debates about laughter.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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