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Rousseau Among the Moderns

Music, Aesthetics, Politics

By Julia Simon

Publication Year: 2013

Renowned for his influence as a political philosopher, a writer, and an autobiographer, Jean-Jacques Rousseau is known also for his intense interest in music. He composed operas and other musical pieces,invented a system of numbered musical notation, engaged in public debates about music, and wrote at length about musical theory. Critical analysis of Rousseau’s work in music has been principally the domain of musicologists, rarely pervading the work of scholars of political theory or literary studies. In Rousseau Among the Moderns, Julia Simon argues for new interpretations of The Social Contract, The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, and The Confessions, as well as other texts, linking Rousseau’s understanding of key concepts in music, such as tuning, harmony, melody, and form, to the crucial problem of the individual’s relationship to the social order. The choice of music as the privileged aesthetic object enables Rousseau to gain insight into the role of the aesthetic realm in relation to the social and political body in ways often associated with later thinkers. Simon argues that much of Rousseau’s “modernism” resides in the unique role that he assigns to music in forging communal relations through the aesthetic.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. 1-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7

Table of Contents

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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

This book is dedicated to my mother, Rene´e Simon, who made sure I was exposed to music at an early age. My mother was the impetus behind the presence of the baby grand piano in our house growing up. I have fond memories of listening to her play a wide variety of music, from waltzes to popular songs. In some ways, she inspired my own desire to play. And...

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A Note on the Text

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pp. xi-xi

All parenthetical references to works by Rousseau are to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (Eeuvres complètes, edited by Bernard Gagnebin, 5 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1959–95). Internal citations refer to volume and page number. Translations are my ...

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pp. 1-17

The history of the critical reception of Rousseau’s corpus bears the traces of interests conditioned by historical circumstance. While this is true of most writers, it is all the more true of the author of Du contrat ...

Notes to Introduction

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pp. 187-189

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Chapter 1: Performance, Rhythm, and the Constitution of Community

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pp. 32-46

There is a strong dialectical tension throughout Rousseau’s work between the individual and the community. Whether in the social and political writings, the works dealing with education, or even in fictional representations, Rousseau seems to struggle between ...

Notes to Chapter 1

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pp. 189-193

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Chapter 2: Singing Democracy: Music and Politics

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pp. 47-74

Democratic theory, and particularly Rousseau’s, is suffused with the idealism and lack of pragmatism that make it both immensely compelling and extraordinarily frustrating. Conceived under the decaying edifice of the absolute monarchy, it strives toward perfection, offering theoretical ...

Notes to Chapter 2

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pp. 193-197

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Chapter 3: Rameau and Rousseau on Absolute and Relative Value: The Theory/Practice Problem

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pp. 75-113

In the preceding chapter, I argued for an understanding of the general will as a relative absolute consistent with conceptions of normative group dynamics functioning in musical ensembles. Pitches are given to establish an absolute standard for tuning that can be revised according to conditions ...

Notes to Chapter 3

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pp. 197-204

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Chapter 4: Folk Music: Authenticity, Primitivism, and the Uses of Roots Music

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pp. 115-145

Music is associated with happiness in the beginning of the Confessions. Rousseau describes his early childhood in elegiac, idealized terms, as a time when he had no wants or needs that went unmet. In the bosom of his extended family of father, nurse, aunt, friends, and neighbors, he paints a ...

Notes to Chapter 4

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pp. 204-210

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Chapter 5: Rousseau and Aesthetic Modernity: Music’s Power of Redemption

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pp. 147-222

Better known for his critiques of the project of Enlightenment and for the rhetorical barbs he aimed at the philosophes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau is not normally considered to be a defender of progress or a champion of social change. While ...

Notes to Chapter 5

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pp. 210-213

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Conclusion: Rousseau Sings the Blues

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pp. 173-185

Of course Rousseau never heard the blues. The eighteenth-century Genevan was long gone when the form arose in the rural southern United States in the area near the Mississippi Delta between the 1880s and the 1920s. So why pose the ...

Notes to Conclusion

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pp. 213-215


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pp. 187-215


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pp. 217-225


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pp. 227-240


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pp. 254-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780271061030
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271059587
Print-ISBN-10: 0271059583

Page Count: 215
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 859687876
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rousseau Among the Moderns

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Subject Headings

  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712-1778 -- Knowledge -- Music.
  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, -- 1712-1778 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Music -- Philosophy and aesthetics.
  • Music -- Political aspects
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