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The influence of travel literature on the works of Pierre Bayle with particular reference to the dictionnaire historique et critique

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Abstract

This thesis studies the way in which travel literature (recits de voyages) influenced the thought and writing of Pierre Bayle, in particular in his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique. We study this work in detail, showing the different uses he makes there of travel literature, and the way in which he very carefully selects the examples which best suit his arguments. Each area of the world is exploited in a specific way - for example the Far East is quoted almost exclusively in support of arguments on persecution and tolerance, whereas the Middle East provides material on a greater variety of topics. Bayle gives information about other nations, which he sometimes criticises and ridicules, but more often he uses recits to attack Europe and European prejudices. We also analyse Bayle's other works, throughout which we note a certain evolution in both his awareness and exploitation of travel literature. In the early works of the 1680s he draws on recits in a fairly limited way - they provide him with a certain number of ideas and arguments, which, however, he does not develop to any great extent. As his writing progresses, though, we see him introducing travel literature more and more, and exploiting fully its considerable potential. Finally, we place Bayle's use of travel literature in context by comparing him with other seventeenth-century writers, studying the frequency with which journals of the time reviewed recits and by looking at lists of recits published during this period. This enables us to show that not only is he quite different from other writers in the extent of his debt to travel literature, but also that his use of this literature reflects faithfully the number and type of recits available.

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