Republic of Letters

L'Institut de France building

L’Institut de France building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Explain the connotations of the phrase “Republic of Letters” (page 18). Why did the reading and writing public imagine themselves as a “Republic”?

Republic of Letters is the idea that writers are “knowledge and opinion shapers” that form a formidable power on par with organized governments (Outram 18). Individuals involved in the Republic of Letters are equals that value cosmopolitanism, and knowledge and its producers across political boundaries (Outram 18-19). The editor ofHistoroire de la Republique des Lettres en France stated that the Republic of Letters is “a certain realm which holds sway only over the mind” and “preserves a measure of independence” (Outram 18). This is “a realm of talent and of thought” and it exists “in the midst of all the governments that decide the fate of men” (Outram 18).

Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, 2nd ed., Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780521546812

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