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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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Language, Religion, Nation

Language, Religion, Nation

(p.47) Chapter 3 Language, Religion, Nation
Genius in France

Ann Jefferson

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the popular usage of “genius” in the nineteenth century. If genius no longer has the self-evidence that was attributed to it in the eighteenth century, this is due in part to the profligacy with which the word had come to be used. While the term is widely invoked—in fact, ever more widely so—it is rarely the subject of sustained theoretical scrutiny of the type established by aesthetics and philosophy in the previous century. The genius celebrated in this popular usage was, more often than not, a collective phenomenon linking success or supremacy with the individual character of institutional or abstract entities in a way that combined genius as ingenium with genius as the form of superlative excellence.

Keywords:   nineteenth century, national genius, collective genius

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