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Genius in FranceAn Idea and Its Uses$
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Ann Jefferson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691160658

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691160658.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Genius in France

Ann Jefferson

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter considers the scope of the history of thinking about genius. It first traces the etymology and definitions of the word “genius.” Etymologically and culturally speaking, the term is hugely overdetermined while remaining strangely underspecified in its actual applications. The chapter explores the ambiguities of the term, before outlining the history of such a discourse on genius in Europe. This history has been extensively documented and explored in ways that lend credence to the view that genius is the topic of a single, pan-European conversation to which the French, the English, and the Germans are the major contributors over the course of the eighteenth century.

Keywords:   genius, etymology, semantic definitions, France, European languages

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