Dr Roger Maioli (University of Florida)
Daiches-Manning Memorial Fellow, April to June 2019
I work on the literature and culture of the eighteenth century, with a main emphasis on England and Scotland and a secondary focus on France. My interests are the rise and theory of the novel, the work of David Hume, the intersection between philosophy and literature, and the intellectual history of the Enlightenment. I was born and raised in Brazil, and I hold an M.A. in English Literary Studies from the University of São Paulo (2006) and a PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University (2015). After obtaining my degree I held a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins and am currently Assistant Professor of English at the University of Florida. My surname, should you decide to use it, is pronounced My-OH-ly, but I am very comfortable with first names. Plain “Roger” is always welcome.
My new book project, provisionally entitled The Enlightenment Crisis of Values, is the first full-length study of Enlightenment relativism. The book begins by showing that a wide range of authors in both Britain and France came to associate the philosophical tendencies of the eighteenth century with a possible collapse of traditional normative boundaries — between right and wrong, true and false, beautiful and ugly, men and women, and Europeans and “barbarians”; and I proceed to suggest that the vast majority of these authors tried to counter this tendency, trying to keep relativism at bay by “upgrading” the old distinctions on new philosophical grounds. In the process, they not only salvaged values that we remain invested in (such as ethical distinctions and the notion of basic human entitlements) but also revitalized old prejudices we are still struggling to overcome. This is a long-term project that shall keep me busy for a few more years, as it has sent me after a wide variety of genres — essays, philosophical treatises, personal letters, legal documents, poetry, prose fiction, and history; the book’s goal is to recover the centrality of relativism as an eighteenth-century cultural phenomenon and in the process develop a picture of the Enlightenment’s afterlife that acknowledges both its positive and its regrettable legacies.