Susan Taylor-Leduc will be coming to speak in the Françoise and Georges Selz Lectures on 18th- and 19th-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture Wednesday, April 27, 2011, on “The ‘Pleasures of Surprise’ in the French Picturesque Garden.”

Susan Taylor-Leduc is Assistant Professor for Global Studies for Trinity College’s Global Learning Site in Paris, where she has taught since 2006. Professor Taylor-Leduc received her B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Taylor-Leduc was Lecturer at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris and at Columbia University’s Paris Program, and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Versailles Campus. She has received the Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art (1993-94), the Samuel H. Kress Pre-Doctoral Institutional Fellowship in Paris (1987-1989), and the University of Pennsylvania Pre-Doctoral Mellon Fellowship (1986-87).

Professor Taylor-Leduc is author of the forthcoming article “Edible Commodities: Fruit Trees in Eighteenth-Century France.” Other essays include “Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Years: A Franco-American Affair” and “Napoleon and Joséphine: Public and Private Images” for the New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition catalog, Jefferson’s America and Napoleon’s France (2003); and the articles “Luxury in the Garden: La Nouvelle Hélöise reconsidered” and “André Félibien’s Description de la Grotte: A New Document in Seventeenth-Century French Garden Theory,” both in Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes. She also contributed to the exhibition Eighteenth-Century French Book Illustration: Drawings by Fragonard and Gravelot from the Rosenbach Museum and Library (Philadelphia, 1982-1985) and the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary traveling exhibition, Benjamin Franklin in Search of a Better World (2003-2008).

Professor Taylor-Leduc’s talk is entitled “The ‘Pleasures of Surprise’ in the French Picturesque Garden.” Just as video games, smart phone ‘apps’ and online betting solicit the attention of early 21st-century subjects, gaming, particularly high-stakes gambling, was irresistible to eighteenth-century French Society. Whereas gambling was considered as an abstract science combining mathematical calculation and chance, its corollary, surprise, inspired the imagination. Baron de Montesquieu linked the two in his “Essay on Taste” in 1754, suggesting how the social practices of gambling inspired surprising images, behaviors, and sensations. Comparing playing cards, board games, engravings, and paintings to garden plans and extant garden sites, this talk investigates how gambling was projected from the card table to the picturesque gardens created by elite patrons who were themselves addicted gamers. It argues that by fostering a game-like sense of surprise, such gardens promoted new sensate experiences that reconfigured eighteenth century notions of amusement and pleasure and contributed to the formulation of modern aesthetic discourses.

Please RSVP and join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.