The Vendome Circle Book Club

It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the imminent launch of the Vendôme Circle Book Club, open to our Members and International Subscribers.

If you would like to join us, visit the Subscription page here. If your membership or subscription is not currently active, be sure to reactivate it so that you will be able to join us. (Note that we will be increasing our rates soon, so take advantage of this lower rate while it lasts!)

The Vendôme Circle Book Club will be one of the centrepieces of our online gatherings and provide us with a way to explore some of the great texts that have a unique and privileged bearing on aesthetics and the question of beauty and taste. We will explore a wealth of works—philosophical, literary, poetic, biographical, historical or epistolary—from Antiquity to today that highlight the development of aesthetics within the Western canon.

We will focus on a selection of the key texts that—over the last 2,600 years or so—have elaborated or given form to an aesthetic and contributed significantly to the development of our historical and collective thought.

From Ancient Greek tragedies to key texts of the Romantic movement, from beloved classics like Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris or Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard to lesser-known but equally important works like Madame de La Fayette’s The Princesse de Clèves or the medieval Romance of the Rose, we will explore some of the best of theatre, poetry and literature. We will also dig into more philosophical texts like Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy or Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and Beautiful.

While centred in Paris, conversations will be held primarily in English to allow broad participation from around the globe.

First Gathering

If you have not yet subscribed, we urge you to do so quickly, as we will be organising our first meeting at the end of June. We will be sending out an email to Members and Subscribers to that end in the course of next week.

In June we will ease into things with an informal gathering to make each other’s acquaintance, share some of the texts which we are most looking forward to reading and get an overview of our reading list and some key texts as well as discuss some practical organisational questions.

Some of Vendôme Circle’s Must Reads

As a circle of aesthetes who are sensitive to art, beauty and good taste, it is natural that the guiding thread of our reading list focuses on those questions. In the history of Aesthetics, a number of authors have become essential in contributing to this important topic.

Nietzsche is one of the pillars of modern thought on the question, and his book The Birth of Tragedy is a monument unto itself. It deserves to be read at least yearly. His division of aesthetics into two elements—the Apollonian and the Dionysian—have become an oft-recurring theme ever since. But how well do we know and understand this division? And more importantly what are the ramifications for living life aesthetically?

The Ancient Greeks are for him both an inspiration and the subject of critique. Each year we will delve into works from Ancient Greece as we attempt to better understand the questions they lay bare. The Oresteia and the Oedipus trilogy stand as the best of Greek tragedy. The figure of Socrates and Plato as well as Euripides represent—at least for Nietzsche—a form of decadence and the glorification of reason and rationality to the detriment of a key element of aesthetics: the Dionysian.

At the end of this year, the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral will reopen, and this will be an excellent pretext to explore the Romantic movement in the form of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

One other text that deserves comment, a contemporary one in this case, is Umberto Eco’s The History of Beauty. It can be read straight through as well as in parts, as it gives an overview of the search for as well as the attempt to identify, describe and express beauty in both a chronological and thematic format. It will be for us a sort of manual to always have at hand as we journey on this path together.

Here is a glimpse of some of the first books we will be reading to whet your appetite:

  • Aeschylus, The Oresteia
  • Tomasi de Lampedusa, Giuseppe, The Leopard
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Birth of Tragedy
  • La Fayette, Madame de, The Princesse de Clèves
  • Hugo, Victor, Notre-Dame de Paris
  • Plato, Phaedrus
  • Vigée le Brun, Elisabeth, Memoirs
  • Burke, Edmund, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and Beautiful
  • Castiglione, Baldassare, The Book of the Courtier
We look forward to beginning this adventure with you soon! Subscribe now as an International Subscriber to join the conversation.

Page through the entire Vendôme Circle Reading List below to whet your appetite. We will be adding to it as time goes by, but this already provides us with at least a decade of reading material depending on our rhythm.

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