Catalogue


Jean-Jacques Rousseau : restless genius /
Leo Damrosch.
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.
description
x, 566 p. : ill.
ISBN
0618446966, 9780618446964
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.
isbn
0618446966
9780618446964
contents note
The loneliness of a gifted child -- The end of innocence -- "I desired a happiness of which I had no idea" -- Rousseau finds a mother -- A year of wandering -- In Maman's house -- The idyll of Les Charmettes -- Broadening horizons : Lyon and Paris -- The masks of Venice -- A life partner and a guilty secret -- A writer's apprenticeship -- The beginnings of fame -- Rousseau's originality -- Lionized in Geneva, alienated in Paris -- An affair of the heart -- The break with the Enlightenment -- Peace at last, and the triumph of Julie -- Rousseau the controversialist : Emile and the social contract -- Exile in the mountains -- Another expulsion -- In a strange land -- The past relived -- Into the self-made labyrinth -- The final years in Paris.
catalogue key
5476486
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
National Book Awards, USA, 2005 : Nominated
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
1 The Loneliness of a Gifted Child "I was born in Geneva in 1712," Rousseau wrote in his Confessions, "son of Isaac Rousseau citoyen and Suzanne Bernard citoyenne." He was always proud of that citizenship, and when he became a prominent writer in Paris he signed himself Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Citoyen de Geneve. But by then he had abjured the Protestant faith and thereby lost his citizenship rights in Geneva. Still later his books would be publicly burned there, and a standing warrant lodged for his arrest if ever he should return. The birth on June 28 was inauspicious. "I was born almost dying," he claimed without further explanation; "they had little hope of saving me." And a true disaster made his birth "the first of my misfortunes." Three days after he was baptized in the great cathedral on July 4, his mother died of puerperal fever. Half a century later, when he wrote his treatise on child development, Rousseau declared that a small child has no way of understanding death. "He has not been shown the art of affecting grief that he doesn't feel; he has not feigned tears at anyone's death, because he doesn't know what it is to die." But his own early experience was of being required to grieve for a mother whom he resembled disturbingly and had somehow killed, and this burden of guilt haunted his later life. If he was indeed born almost dying, he may well have felt that it would have been better if he had died in her place. Throughout his life he tended to see motherhood in a sentimental light; in middle age he wrote solemnly to a young man seeking advice, "A son who quarrels with his mother is always wrong . . . The right of mothers is the most sacred I know, and in no circumstances can it be violated without crime." There was a lot Rousseau seems never to have known about his parents, including their ages; he thought his father was fifteen years younger than he actually was. He was even less well informed about his ancestors. Like many Genevan families, the first Rousseaus immigrated from France when Protestants began to be persecuted there. Didier Rousseau, Jean- Jacques'great-great-great-grandfather, arrived in Geneva in 1549 and went into business as a wine merchant. He had been a bookseller in Paris and may well have gotten into trouble, as his famous descendant did two centuries later, for subversive publications. It would be pleasant to think that Jean-Jacques was proud of this ancestor who had accepted exile for his beliefs, but there is no evidence that he ever heard of him. Didier's descendants became industrious tradespeople and artisans, leaving little trace in official records, but Jean-Jacques'father, Isaac, was an interesting character. He took up watchmaking as a trade, not surprisingly, since his grandfather, father, and brothers were all watchmakers. But he also loved music and played the violin well, and as a young man he abandoned the workshop to become a dancing master. Dancing was no longer forbidden by the Calvinist theocracy of Geneva, but it was not in good repute, and the Consistory - a committee of pastors and laymen that oversaw morals - limited it to foreign residents who refused to give it up. After a short time Isaac ended this dubious experiment and returned to the family trade, in which he eventually qualified as a master craftsman. Over the years, however, his volatile temper repeatedly got him into trouble. In 1699 he provoked a quarrel with some English officers who drew their swords and threatened him; it was he who was punished, since the authorities were anxious to propitiate foreigners. A similar incident would one day result in his virtual dis
First Chapter
1 The Loneliness of a Gifted Child "I was born in Geneva in 1712," Rousseau wrote in his Confessions, "son of Isaac Rousseau citoyen and Suzanne Bernard citoyenne." He was always proud of that citizenship, and when he became a prominent writer in Paris he signed himself Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Citoyen de Genve. But by then he had abjured the Protestant faith and thereby lost his citizenship rights in Geneva. Still later his books would be publicly burned there, and a standing warrant lodged for his arrest if ever he should return. The birth on June 28 was inauspicious. "I was born almost dying," he claimed without further explanation; "they had little hope of saving me." And a true disaster made his birth "the first of my misfortunes." Three days after he was baptized in the great cathedral on July 4, his mother died of puerperal fever. Half a century later, when he wrote his treatise on child development, Rousseau declared that a small child has no way of understanding death. "He has not been shown the art of affecting grief that he doesnt feel; he has not feigned tears at anyones death, because he doesnt know what it is to die." But his own early experience was of being required to grieve for a mother whom he resembled disturbingly and had somehow killed, and this burden of guilt haunted his later life. If he was indeed born almost dying, he may well have felt that it would have been better if he had died in her place. Throughout his life he tended to see motherhood in a sentimental light; in middle age he wrote solemnly to a young man seeking advice, "A son who quarrels with his mother is always wrong... The right of mothers is the most sacred I know, and in no circumstances can it be violated without crime." There was a lot Rousseau seems never to have known about his parents, including their ages; he thought his father was fifteen years younger than he actually was. He was even less well informed about his ancestors. Like many Genevan families, the first Rousseaus immigrated from France when Protestants began to be persecuted there. Didier Rousseau, Jean- Jacques great-great-great-grandfather, arrived in Geneva in 1549 and went into business as a wine merchant. He had been a bookseller in Paris and may well have gotten into trouble, as his famous descendant did two centuries later, for subversive publications. It would be pleasant to think that Jean-Jacques was proud of this ancestor who had accepted exile for his beliefs, but there is no evidence that he ever heard of him. Didiers descendants became industrious tradespeople and artisans, leaving little trace in official records, but Jean-Jacques father, Isaac, was an interesting character. He took up watchmaking as a trade, not surprisingly, since his grandfather, father, and brothers were all watchmakers. But he also loved music and played the violin well, and as a young man he abandoned the workshop to become a dancing master. Dancing was no longer forbidden by the Ca
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-10-01:
Damrosch (literature, Harvard Univ.; Samuel Johnson and the Tragic Sense) relates the life and works of the 18th-century man who so uncannily prefigured the modern mind. While interweaving Rousseau's own writing, which traversed philosophy, politics, fiction, educational theory, music, and more, Damrosch focuses on his subject's life, imbued by dramatic moments of encounter, departure, and epiphany (some known only from his autobiographical Confessions). There is the 16-year-old's decision to turn his back on Geneva, the meeting and new life with Madame de Warens, the inspired self-teaching, the volatile flirtations and friendships, and the dramatic flights from persecution for publishing "dangerous" works. Over 40 illustrations, plus a time line, will enhance the reader's enjoyment. Raymond Trousson's biography of Rousseau is yet to be translated into English; the most recent biography in English is Maurice Cranston's three-volume study, its attention to Rousseau's final years curtailed by Cranston's death. Damrosch collegially offers tasty quotes from these and other sources (all well documented). His greatest accomplishment may be that he will entice nonspecialists to turn to Rousseau and his world and undertake further study for themselves. Highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/05.]-Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-08-29:
Considering Rousseau's prominence and historical importance, it is surprising to discover that (according to the publisher) this is the first single-volume biography in English. Damrosch, a professor of literature at Harvard University, has succeeded in presenting an incisive, accessible and sensitive portrait of this unpleasant, infuriating "restless genius." Sometimes, indeed, perhaps a little too sensitive: Damrosch's admiration can prevent his strongly condemning where condemnation is due. Rousseau (1712-1778) was the man, we should recall, who consigned his own infants to a foundling home, who sent a miserably small sum of money to his ailing former patroness and who bought an adolescent girl for nefarious purposes. Where Damrosch truly excels is in not only masterfully explaining the originality and meaning of mile, The Social Contract and the Confessions, but in relating those works to their author's conflicted, contradictory psyche. As Rousseau himself admitted, "I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices." Also, in vividly delineating the sage's final decade for the first time, Damrosch has performed a signal service: Maurice Cranston, who was writing a three-volume biography, died before completing the last part-thereby leaving readers in the dark as to Rousseau's fate. No longer. 43 b&w illus. Agent, Tina Bennett. (Nov. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2006-05-01:
Meticulously researched, clearly written, and beautifully illustrated, this is the first single-volume biography of Rousseau in English and a model of the genre. It goes well beyond the standard English biography, Maurice Cranston's exhaustive three-volume work (Jean-Jacques, CH, Sep'83; The Noble Savage, CH, Dec'91, 29-1991; The Solitary Self, CH, Jun'97, 34-5581), which avoids the more unsettling episodes of Rousseau's life and does not cover the last ten years at all (Cranston died before he finished volume 3). Drawing on hundreds of articles and books by brilliant scholars, especially Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond's edition of Rousseau's works (Oeuvres completes, 1959-95) and R. A. Leigh's 52-volume edition of Rousseau's correspondence (Correspondence complete, 1971-98), Damrosch (Harvard) tells the story of "the most original genius" of the 18th century: a man of paradoxes, an exasperating personality, and above all a questioning and restless spirit haunted by "the painful dissonance between inner feelings and outward social pressures." Damrosch uses his own translation of the words of Rousseau and of those who knew him best to bring to life the philosopher, novelist, and literary provocateur who changed the course of history and continues to challenge and inspire. He presents facts, explores relationships, explains conflicts, and analyzes motives, all in fascinating detail. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All readers; all levels. C. B. Kerr Vassar College
Reviews
Review Quotes
"An incisive, accessible, and sensitive portrait . . . Damrosch has performed a signal service."
"These pages...bring to astonishing life...an impossible man whose books made modern life possible....Immensely enjoyable and fast-paced." --Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club and American Studies
"These pages...bring to astonishing life...an impossible man whose books made modern life possible....Immensely enjoyable and fast-paced." --Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club and American Studies "An incisive, accessible, and sensitive portrait . . . Damrosch has performed a signal service." Publishers Weekly "The erratic, inventive urgency of the life is all here. A delight to read." --Stacy Schiff The New York Times Book Review
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, July 2005
Publishers Weekly, August 2005
Library Journal, October 2005
Booklist, November 2005
New York Times Book Review, November 2005
San Francisco Chronicle, November 2005
Washington Post, December 2005
Boston Globe, April 2006
Choice, May 2006
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau burst unexpectedly onto the eighteenth-century literary scene as a provocateur whose works electrified readers. An autodidact who had not written anything of significance by age thirty, Rousseau seemed an unlikely candidate to become one of the most influential thinkers in history. Yet the power of his ideas is felt to this day in our political and social lives. In a masterly and definitive biography, Leo Damrosch traces the extraordinary life of Rousseau with novelistic verve. He presents Rousseau's books -- The Social Contract, one of the greatest works on political theory; Emile, a groundbreaking treatise on education; and the Confessions, which created the genre of introspective autobiography -- as works uncannily alive and provocative even today. Jean-Jacques Rousseau offers a vivid portrait of the visionary's tumultuous life.
Main Description
The extraordinary life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the eighteenth-century literary genius who changed the course of history, traced with novelistic verve. Motherless child, failed apprentice, autodidact, impossibly odd lover, Jean-Jacques Rousseau burst unexpectedly onto the eighteenth-century scene as a literary provocateur whose works electrified readers from the start. Rousseau's impact on American social and political thought remains deep, wide, and, to some, even infuriating. Leo Damrosch beautifully mines Rousseau's books--The Social Contract, one of the greatest works on political theory and a direct influence on the French and American revolutions; Emile, a groundbreaking treatise on education; and the Confessions, which created the genre of introspective autobiography--as works still uncannily alive and provocative to us today. Damrosch's triumph is to integrate the story of Rousseau's extraordinarily original writings with the tumultuous life that produced them. Rousseau's own words and those of people who knew him help create an accessible, vivid portrait of a questing man whose strangeness--as punishing and punished lover, difficult friend, and father who famously consigned his infant children to a foundling home--still fascinates. This, the first single-volume biography of Rousseau in English, is as masterfully written as it is definitive. Leo Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University. He has written widely on eighteenth-century writers. Praise for Jean-Jacques Rousseau "Leo Damrosch's vivid biography enables us to plunge deeply into Rousseau's singular life, conjure up its crucial encounters, retrace its twisting paths, and supplement Rousseau's own claims about himself with the detailed, often contradictory testimony of the contemporaries he so unsettled and inspired." -- Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare "These pages bring to life the Europe of the ancien regime, a desiccated, sybaritic, superstitious, oppressive world about to be terribly and fatally convulsed. And they also bring to astonishing life a great agent of that convulsion, an impossible man whose books helped to make modern life possible. Leo Damrosch not only helps us understand Rousseau, his loves and his hates, his genius and his foolishness. He makes us see Rousseau. And, as he shows again and again in this immensely enjoyable and fast-paced story, that is Rousseau's special and permanent fascination--because when we see him, we are seeing ourselves."-- Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club and American Studies
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
The Loneliness of a Gifted Childp. 7
The End of Innocencep. 25
""I Desired a Happiness of Which I Had No Idea""p. 43
Rousseau Finds a Motherp. 69
A Year of Wanderingp. 88
In Maman""s Housep. 104
The Idyll of Les Charmettesp. 125
Broadening Horizons: Lyon and Parisp. 149
The Masks of Venicep. 168
A Life Partner and a Guilty Secretp. 184
A Writer""s Apprenticeshipp. 196
The Beginnings of Famep. 211
Rousseau""s Originalityp. 234
Lionized in Gen
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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