Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital city was the center of all the nation’s social and intellectual activity in the eighteenth century. Paris was also where Diderot spent the majority of his working life. Throughout his novel, Diderot mentions familiar places in Paris—places that he and his friends and acquaintances frequented. Diderot wrote Rameau’s Nephew not for publication, but rather for his own use and to share with a few close friends. For this reason, the Paris in which his book is set is the Paris that he experienced and shared with his friends. For example, he provides very realistic details about the Palais Royal gardens in which he often walked and relaxed on evenings when the weather was fine. He even mentions the banc d’Argenson, an actual bench located in the Allée d’Argenson where he often sat.

*Café de la Régence

*Café de la Régence (kah-fay deh lah ray-gahns). Café located in the Palais Royal Square that Diderot frequented when the weather was bad. This café was renowned for the men who played chess there, and Diderot was often among the spectators. The café serves as a catalyst to the novel’s action, for it is at the café that Diderot encounters Rameau’s nephew, Jean-François Rameau, the “He” of the dialogue (to Diderot’s “Myself”).

Parisian homes

Parisian homes. Rameau’s nephew finds sustenance in the fine homes of the...

(The entire section is 431 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Crocker, Lester. The Embattled Philosopher: A Biography of Denis Diderot. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1954. A lively, very readable, and solid study. Evokes the antithetical tendencies in Diderot’s personality, treats with balance Diderot’s famous feud with Rousseau, and includes a lengthy, perceptive analysis of Rameau’s Nephew.

Doolittle, James. Rameau’s Nephew: A Study of Diderot’s “Second Satire.” Geneva: Librairie E. Droz, 1960. A reflective study of Diderot’s most famous creative work. Insightful. Relies heavily on the text itself—and is free of the critical jargon and interpretive excesses of some more recent works.

Fellows, Otis. Diderot. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A sympathetic, clear introduction to Diderot’s life and work. Relying heavily on earlier scholarship, Fellows reports varied interpretive views of Diderot’s major writings.

Furbank, Philip Nicholas. Diderot: A Critical Biography. London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1992. Emphasizes Diderot’s literary works, particularly his fiction, and cites lengthy passages from his correspondence to clarify the issues that absorbed the philosopher. Furbank’s interpretations make use of contemporary literary theory.

Wilson, Arthur. Diderot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. A comprehensive study of Diderot, richly detailed and absorbing. Treats the man and his social world with assurance and subtle judgment. Describes Diderot’s courage in going ahead with his Encyclopédie (1751-1772) even after others deserted the project.