Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704) is today regarded as the most important French preacher of the Ancien Régime; yet, this was not always the case. In fact, before the nineteenth century, Bossuet's reputation was no greater than that of his contemporary counterparts, especially Louis Bourdaloue (1632–1704) and Jean-Baptiste Massillon (1662–1742). What happened to cause Bossuet's rise to rhetorical preeminence in post-revolutionary France? A survey of how French literary historians of the past three centuries have received Bossuet's oratorical works suggests an answer, as well as exposes the rhetorical dimensions of appropriation itself.

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