About Salons ( from the Ministry of Education)
The Enlightenment was a period marked by considerable intellectual growth and aspirations for social reform. Many contemporary thinkers, or philosophes, advocated progress based on reason, tolerance, and enhanced individual rights. It could be difficult, even dangerous, to disseminate those ideas in societies where repression and censorship were still common. One unthreatening way to share ideas was through salons. Salon hosts, usually wealthy women, invited thinkers, writers, and scientists to their homes to speak or to read from their works.
Enlightenment salons often focused on political, economic, and social thought. They addressed important and sometimes controversial issues, and promoted debate about the direction in which society should progress.
- Don’t participate in the discussions as a high school student from Strathroy, Ontario. Try to respond as the historical figure you represent.
- Feel free to argue, but avoid direct insults. Insulting guests will offend the hostess.
- Remember that the Salon is an intellectual debate, a fashion show, and a popularity contest. Debate and discourse must entertain, so don’t forget to periodically delight the crowd with your wit.
- Don’t be rude. Le bon ton, or good taste, is essential.
- Make a name tag featuring your name and your expertise. Feel free to make a joke at your own expense.
The Salon Topics
I will give you approximately 15 minutes to decide how your historical figure would feel about each of these issues. Remember to briefly consult your notes and the section of the text that refers to your figure. For example, if your figure is interested in politics, you should probably have an opinion about number 2.
- Is prejudice against women a sign of a barbaric society?
- The Americans have created a new way of living. They have no king! Instead, they are a Republic in the tradition of early Rome. Is it true that America without a doubt will be the refuge of liberty forbidden in Europe by luxury and corruption?
- The urban poor of France struggle to survive. 20% of Parisians who die every year are in the poorhouse. Infants are abandoned in the streets and left to die. What can be done to change this?
- A new way to share knowledge, known as an encyclopedia, has been invented. This highly satirical book does more than provide facts; it states the true nature of things, even if the rich and powerful dislike the truth. Let us look at some examples, and have our wonderful guests write some entries.
- Montesqueiu has just published the Persian Letters. Let us each agree to read a section, and provide him some honest feedback from the king’s perspective.