Collected Writings of Rousseau

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

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Collected Writings of Rousseau

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Autobiographical, Scientific, Religious, Moral, and Literary Writings

Jean Rousseau

Newcomers to Rousseau's works and those who are familiar with his writings will find something to surprise them both in this wide variety of short pieces from every period of his life.

Among the important theoretical writings found here are the "Fiction or Allegorical Fragment on Revelation" and the "Moral Letters," which are among Rousseau's clearest statements about the nature and limits of philosophic reasoning. In the early "Idea of a Method for the Composition of a Book," Rousseau lays out in advance his understanding of how to present his ideas to the public. He ponders the possibilities for and consequences of air travel in "The New Daedalus." This volume also contains both his first and last autobiographical statements.

Some of these writings show Rousseau's lesser-known playful side. A comic fairy tale, "Queen Whimsical", explores the consequences--both serious and ridiculous--for a kingdom when the male heir to the throne, endowed with the frivolous characteristics of his mother, has a sister with all the characteristics of a good monarch. When Rousseau was asked whether a fifty-year old man could write love letters to a young woman without appearing ridiculous, he responded with "Letters to Sophie," which attempt to demonstrate that such a man could write as many as four--but not as many as six--letters before he became a laughingstock. In "The Banterer," he challenges readers to guess whether the work they are reading was written by an author who is "wisely mad" or by one who is "madly wise." When Rousseau was challenged to write a merry tale, "without intrigue, without love, without marriage, and without lewdness," he produced a work considered too daring to be published in France.

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The Confessions and Correspondence, Including the Letters to Malesherbes

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

When Rousseau first read his Confessions to a 1770 gathering in Paris, reactions varied from admiration of his candor to doubts about his sanity to outrage. Indeed, Rousseau's intent and approach were revolutionary. As one of the first attempts at autobiography, the Confessions' novelty lay not in just its retelling the facts of Rousseau's life, but in its revelation of his innermost feelings and its frank description of the strengths and failings of his character.

Based on his doctrine of natural goodness, Rousseau intended the Confessions as a testing ground to explore his belief that, as Christopher Kelly writes, "people are to be measured by the depth and nature of their feelings." Re-created here in a meticulously documented new translation based on the definitive Pleiade edition, the work represents Rousseau's attempt to forge connections among his beliefs, his feelings, and his life. More than a "behind-the-scenes look at the private life of a public man," Kelly writes, "the Confessions is at the center of Rousseau's philosophical enterprise."

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Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music

Jean Jacques Rousseau

"J.J. was born for music," Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote of himself, "not to be consumed in its execution, but to speed its progress and make discoveries about it. His ideas on the art and about the art are fertile, inexhaustible." Rousseau was a practicing musician and theorist for years before publication of his first Discourse, but until now scholars have neglected these ideas.

This graceful translation remedies both those failings by bringing together the Essay, which John T. Scott says "most clearly displays the juncture between Rousseau's musical theory and his major philosophical works," with a comprehensive selection of the musical writings. Many of the latter are responses to authors like Rameau, Grimm, and Raynal, and a unique feature of this edition is the inclusion of writings by these authors to help establish the historical and ideological contexts of Rousseau's writings and the intellectual exchanges of which they are a part.

With an introduction that provides historical background, traces the development of Rousseau's musical theory, and shows that these writings are not an isolated part of his oeuvre but instead are animated by the same "system," this volume fashions a much-needed portal through which literary scholars, musicologists, historians, and political theorists can enter into an important but hitherto overlooked chamber of Rousseau's vast intellectual palace.

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Julie, or the New Heloise

Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

An elegant translation of one of the most popular novels of its time.

Rousseau's great epistolary novel, Julie, or the New Heloise, has been virtually unavailable in English since 1810. In it, Rousseau reconceptualized the relationship of the individual to the collective and articulated a new moral paradigm. The story follows the fates and smoldering passions of Julie d'Etange and St. Preux, a one-time lover who re-enters Julie's life at the invitation of her unsuspecting husband, M. de Wolmar.

The complex tones of this work made it a commercial success and a continental sensation when it first appeared in 1761, and its embodiment of Rousseau's system of thought, in which feelings and intellect are intertwined, redefined the function and form of fiction for decades. As the characters negotiate a complex maze of passion and virtue, their purity of soul and honest morality reveal, as Rousseau writes in his preface, "the subtleties of heart of which this work is full."

A comprehensive introduction and careful annotations make this novel accessible to contemporary readers, both as an embodiment of Rousseau's philosophy and as a portrayal of the tension and power inherent in domestic life.

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Letter to Beaumont, Letters Written from the Mountain, and Related Writings

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Published between 1762 and 1765, these writings are the last works Rousseau wrote for publication during his lifetime. Responding in each to the censorship and burning of Emile and Social Contract, Rousseau airs his views on censorship, religion, and the relation between theory and practice in politics.

The Letter to Beaumont is a response to a Pastoral Letter by Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris (also included in this volume), which attacks the religious teaching in Emile. Rousseau's response concerns the general theme of the relation between reason and revelation and contains his most explicit and boldest discussions of the Christian doctrines of creation, miracles, and original sin.

In Letters Written from the Mountain, a response to the political crisis in Rousseau's homeland of Geneva caused by a dispute over the burning of his works, Rousseau extends his discussion of Christianity and shows how the political principles of the Social Contract can be applied to a concrete constitutional crisis. One of his most important statements on the relation between political philosophy and political practice, it is accompanied by a fragmentary "History of the Government of Geneva."

Finally, "Vision of Peter of the Mountain, Called the Seer" is a humorous response to a resident of Motiers who had been inciting attacks on Rousseau during his exile there. Taking the form of a scriptural account of a vision, it is one of the rare examples of satire from Rousseau's pen and the only work he published anonymously after his decision in the early 1750s to put his name on all his published works. Within its satirical form, the "Vision" contains Rousseau's last public reflections on religious issues.

Neither the Letter to Beaumont nor the Letters Written from the Mountain has been translated into English since defective translations that appeared shortly after their appearance in French. These are the first translations of both the "History" and the "Vision."

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The Plan for Perpetual Peace, On the Government of Poland, and Other Writings on History and Politics

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

These abridgements of The Plan for Perpetual Peace (published 1761), On the Government of Poland (1771-1772), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's other writings on history and politics represent his considerations of the practical applications of key principles developed in his best-known theoretical writings. In this latest volume in the classic series, Rousseau reflects on projects for a European union; the possibilities for governmental reform for France, including the polysynody experiment; international relations; and the establishment of governments for Poland and Corsica, both recently liberated from foreign oppression. Taken together, these works offer definitive insights into Rousseau's decidedly nonutopian thoughts on cosmopolitanism and nationalism, and on the theory and practice of politics.

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Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques: Dialogues

Dialogues

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

One of Rousseau’s later and most puzzling works and never before available in English, this neglected autobiographical piece was the product of the philosopher’s old age and sense of persecution. Long viewed simply as evidence of his growing paranoia, it consists of three dialogues between a character named “Rousseau” and one identified only as “Frenchman” who discuss the bad reputation and works of an author named “Jean-Jacques.” Dialogues offers a fascinating retrospective of his literary career.

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