Research Publication Title

God, Nature, and Man in Justine

Presenter Information

Kayley R. RobersonFollow

Major

Art History

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Hedwig Fraunhofer

Keywords

God, Nature, Man, Justine, Marquis de Sade, French Revolution, Politics, Literature

Abstract

In the French Enlightenment writer the Marquis de Sade’s best-known novel, Justine, issues surrounding God, nature, and humankind pose significant problems for the protagonist of the story. Sade’s materialist philosophical work affirms his belief that nature is the most influential factor in the lives of humans and that God does not exist. Sade states that violence, immorality, and vice derive from nature and exist as the basic instincts of man. He argues that these temptations must be praised rather than forbidden. While Justine, the virtuous title character, faces corruption at every turn, she refuses to concede victory to the depravities of men. Along her journey, Sade presents several characters to tempt and persuade her of the lack of a supreme being other than nature. However, in a text written during the French Revolution, Sade’s writing poses more than simply a resistance to theology. It is also a critique of the monarchy. In this paper, I will argue that Sade’s repudiation of the existence of God makes a significant political statement maintaining that any form of higher power is unnecessary and that humankind possesses the ability to reign over their own lives, based on natural predispositions. While Sade’s proposal seems extreme, it falls exactly in line with the revolutionary ideas of the period.

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God, Nature, and Man in Justine

In the French Enlightenment writer the Marquis de Sade’s best-known novel, Justine, issues surrounding God, nature, and humankind pose significant problems for the protagonist of the story. Sade’s materialist philosophical work affirms his belief that nature is the most influential factor in the lives of humans and that God does not exist. Sade states that violence, immorality, and vice derive from nature and exist as the basic instincts of man. He argues that these temptations must be praised rather than forbidden. While Justine, the virtuous title character, faces corruption at every turn, she refuses to concede victory to the depravities of men. Along her journey, Sade presents several characters to tempt and persuade her of the lack of a supreme being other than nature. However, in a text written during the French Revolution, Sade’s writing poses more than simply a resistance to theology. It is also a critique of the monarchy. In this paper, I will argue that Sade’s repudiation of the existence of God makes a significant political statement maintaining that any form of higher power is unnecessary and that humankind possesses the ability to reign over their own lives, based on natural predispositions. While Sade’s proposal seems extreme, it falls exactly in line with the revolutionary ideas of the period.