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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: May 2006

10 - Pascal’s Lettres provinciales


The Lettres provinciales are the single polemical work of the French seventeenth century to have survived into posterity, and it is not difficult to see the reasons for their enduring appeal, by comparison both with the publications that were produced by the Society of Jesus in reply to the later pieces in the series, and with the whole unwieldy corpus of writing that was soon to bear witness to the quietist dispute. There is, of course, an equivalent mass of technical theological material underpinning the Provinciales, but, at least in the first ten letters, it is sufficiently concealed to allow the fictional exchanges the highest possible degree of autonomy and thus accessibility. Only when we reach the later pieces do we become aware of the intertextual and contextual dimensions of the writing; and it could indeed be argued that the letters that follow the shift of perspective effected by the eleventh move progressively towards the kind of more detailed internecine dispute which in fact more typically reflects religious disagreement in the period.

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