Poster for the theater play “Le Neveu de Rameau” by Diderot at Theatre Le Ranelagh, Paris. “Rameau’s Nephew” is an imaginary philosophical conversation by Denis Diderot which was published in 1763.
The plot: The recounted story takes place in the Palais-Royal, where Moi (“Me”), a narrator-like persona (often mistakenly supposed to stand for Diderot himself), describes for the reader a recent encounter he’s had with the character Lui (“Him”), referring to — yet not literally meaning — Jean-François Rameau, the nephew of the famous composer, who’s engaged him in an intricate battle of wits, self-reflexivity, allegory and allusion. Recurring themes in the discussion include the Querelle des Bouffons (the French/Italian opera battle), education of children, the nature of genius and money. The often rambling conversation pokes fun at numerous prominent figures of the time.