In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

1 76Philosophy and Literature tribution to contemporary criticism. In these adventurously conceived texts, Barthes engages in a "rewriting of the concepts surrounding the notion of the human subject and, in particular, a rewriting of the concept of the self" (p. 134). Wiseman supports her case for the later Barthes effectively, but an unfortunate consequence of her procedure is that she pays litde or no attention to Critical Essays (1964), Criticism and Truth (1966), and SIZ (1970), all of which have proven very influential for literary critics and theorists. In addition, and more importandy, Wiseman fails to locate Barthes in any kind of comparative context. She basically considers him in isolation, supplying only an occasional reference to Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan and not mentioning Stanley Fish, H. R. Jauss, and others who have examined matters that Barthes treated. In her preface, Wiseman declares that she decided to forego situating Barthes within "the contemporary French play of ideas" (p. xiii), but saying this does notjustify the absence of comparison and contrast in her book. Because Wiseman confines herself to Barthes's texts alone, she does not enable her readers to see his contribution clearly—where he overlaps with Derrida, where he diverges from Lacan, where he goes beyond or falls short of Fish and Jauss. If Wiseman had introduced other theorists and critics into her analysis, she might have been guided toward a more measured, if still admiring, relation to Barthes. Nowhere does she speak skeptically about him: it is as though he never uttered a word that she has felt inclined to challenge. Her desire to present her "responses to Barthes's own mode of thinking" (p. xiii) has led her to produce a sensitive, intimate book, but, in my view, it also means that she allows Barthes to define the terms for his own appraisal. Wiseman studies him appreciatively , but not critically, and in this sense her response is less rounded and flexible than it should be. Wellesley CollegeWilliam E. Cain Rousseau's Exemplary Life: "The Confessions" as Political PhUosophy, by Christopher Kelly; xiv & 262 pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987, $29.95. The tide of Kelly's book is somewhat misleading; this reviewer would have been better prepared had it read something like the following: TL· Role of tL· Imagination in tL· Development of Rousseau's Political Philosophy as Seen Through "TL· Confessions." Viewed in this light, Kelly's investigation of Rousseau's thought, and most particularly of the relation of TL· Confessions to his more Reviews177 systematic works, is a useful new attempt to bring the two sides of Rousseau's work together in a meaningful whole. Kelly starts his investigation with two chapters entided "Political Philosophy and the Genre of Lives" and "The Need for a New Exemplary Life." He is quite thorough in his investigation of the status of autobiography, comparing Rousseau to Saint Augustine and quoting from most ofthe contemporary critics of autobiography. He disagrees with their conclusion that autobiography is essentially a distortion of both reality and philosophy and therefore useless in the interpretation of any author's system of ideas. Following Starobinski, Kelly points to three main ways in which Rousseau sees autobiography as a useful, indeed necessary enterprise: it permits him to identify society's evils through its effect on himself; it lets him define the principles that allow this identification; and, according to Kelly, it allows him to give an account of someone who can actually gain access to these principles. Using Cato, Socrates, and Jesus as examples of exemplary lives, Kelly shows why none of these was satisfactory to Rousseau, thus necessitating a new type of exemplary life. Chapters three through six give the reader an analysis of all twelve books of The Confessions, with most attention devoted to the first book, in a chapter entided "The Awakening of the Imagination and the Departure from Nature." Using The Second Discourse and Emile as points of comparison, Kelly delineates clearly how Rousseau's positive education and love of reading lead him away from the natural life through his imagination which opens up a series of feelings unnatural to his age, namely sexuality, anger, and vanity. There is a rather weak section...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 176-178
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.