Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal: François Bernier, Marguerite de la Sablière and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France
Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal identifies and explores the traces that exposure to India left on the cultural artifacts and mindset of France's "Great Century" and the early Enlightenment. Focusing on the salon of Marguerite de La Sablière and its encounter with the traveler and philosopher François Bernier, this book resurrects the conversations about India inspired by Bernier's travels and inscribed in his influential texts produced in collaboration with La Sablière's salon. The literary works, correspondences, and philosophical texts produced by the members of this eclectic salon bear the traces of this engagement with India.
Faith E. Beasley's analysis of these conversations reveals France's unique engagement with India during this period and challenges prevailing images derived from a nineteenth-century "orientalism" imbued with colonialism. The India encountered in La Sablière's salon through Francois Bernier and others is not the colonized India that has come to dominate any image of the Orient. Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal adds a new chapter to literary and cultural history by adopting a new approach to the study of salon culture, exploring how texts, cultural artifacts, and patterns of thought were shaped by the collective reading and by the conversations emanating from these practices. Beasley's analysis highlights the unique role of French salon culture in the evolution of western thought during the early modern period.