Other Literary Forms
Denis Diderot was an inveterate experimenter with literary forms, creating new variations on traditional forms in his several novels and plays and inventing wholly new forms for his essays, philosophical discourses, and satirical dialogues. He was a pioneer in the writing of art criticism and was the author of some of the most brilliant personal letters in the French language. He contributed a widely varied group of articles—on scientific, historical, and philosophical subjects—to the Encyclopédie: Ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers (1751-1772; Encyclopedia, 1965), of which he was also coeditor. His first publications were translations from English, a language he knew well; and, as a result of his youthful interest in mathematics, he published early in his career a volume of mathematical studies. He even published a small amount of not very distinguished verse. In general, Diderot tried his hand at just about every literary form then known and invented a few hybrids—especially the ingenious combination of narrative, dialogue, and essay used in Rameau’s Nephew and Other Works—which had not previously existed.