Oscar Kenshur combines trenchant analyses of important early-modern texts with a powerful critique of postmodern theories of ideology. He thereby contributes both to our understanding of Enlightenment thought and to contemporary debates about cultural studies and critical theory.
While striving to resolve "dilemmas" occasioned by conflicting intellectual and political commitments, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers often relied upon ideas originally used by their enemies to support very different claims. Thus, they engaged in what Kenshur calls "intellectual co-optation." In exploring the ways in which Dryden, Bayle, Voltaire, Johnson, and others used this technique, Kenshur presents a historical landscape distinctly different from the one constructed by much contemporary theory.
Oscar Kenshur is Professor of Comparative Literature and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and of English at Indiana University. He is the author of Open Form and the Shape of Ideas (1986).
"A subtly telling blow to the old-timey distinction between philosophy and literature, a distinction that still persists in practice, despite many overly ideological campaigns to revise it. He, too, talks a lot about theory and ideology, but he shows in practice the wonderful complexities of the interplay of rhetoric and philosophy. Furthermore, he shows how this interplay helped to fabricate the many textures of eighteenth-century life. Kenshur's is the first comprehensive 'cultural history' that actually takes pleasure in the rich, interdisciplinary exchanges of the era."—Kevin L. Cope, author of Criteria of Certainty
"This is an important book. It is provocative at many turns regarding the individual texts studied, and sees them in not simply untraditional but counter-traditional, yet quite well-substantiated, ways. The book may be still more important on account of its strong, reasoned, poised challenge to theoretical orthodoxies ranging from Foucault to New Historicism to Stanley Fish's idea of interpretive communities."—Frederick M. Keener, author of The Chain of Becoming