Wednesday, February 20, 2013


panglossian [pænˈglɒsiən] a.

1.) Blindly or naively optimistic (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: After Pangloss, an optimistic professor in Candide, a satire by Voltaire. Pangloss believes that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,' parodying the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

"Thales, serene and apparently wise, argues for water as the first principle, while remaining blind to the catastrophes of Walpurgis Night. Anaxagoras, apostle of fire, is a revolutionary apocalyptic like Blake's Orc or the actual visionaries who helped bring on the French Revolution. Since Anaxagoras is left prostrate upon the ground, adoring Hecate while blaming himself for disasters, the palm is clearly awarded to the sweet-tempered if rather too Panglossian Thales" (The Western Canon, Harold Bloom, 1994).

(Un philosophe et un ours dans un paysage fluvial montagneux, Jean-Charles Tardieu, ~1828)

I'm not actually sure that that's how the painting is referred to in French. I could not find the answer anywhere on the google. So, if anyone out there is a French-speaking art historian (I'm looking at you here Bibi), I'd appreciate some help. Thanks for reading!


Vapid Vixen said...

Um. I'm sorry, but WHAT?? Where has this blog BEEN all my life??

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh yes, Dr. Pangloss. I remember him well from university French literature class.

Bibi said...

Well, I can't seem to find the original title anywhere either (but chances are, the painting didn't even have an "original title" to begin with). There seems to be a consensus on the English title anywhere I look. And because I'm in Antwerp now (and can't make use of a lot of registered websites I did have access to while studying in Leuven, nor the art history library there) I'm just going to have to say that the French title seems fine, eventhough you're the only one using it.

Eddie said...

I love it! Is there a noun too? A pangloss, or a panglossist? They can just be *the* most irritating people to work with on a grumpy Monday morning : o )

Evi @ sexta-feira said...

I actually thought this one would mean "the person who speaks many languages" from pan (all) and glossa (language). :)
Now that I know what it means, I wish I were panglossian. Panglossian people are happy.

Poke The Rock said...

I can feel myself becoming smarter just by reading this...I might be a bit of an panglossian myself.

Jessi Francis said...

I love reading these everyday! What did you study in college?

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