Item description for Rousseau Confessions Livres VII a XII/Rousseau Confessions 7-12 (Classiques Larousse) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau...
In his Confessions Jean-Jacques Rousseau tells the story of his life, from the formative experience of his humble childhood in Geneva, through the achievement of international fame as novelist and philosopher in Paris, to his wanderings as an exile, persecuted by governments and alienated from the world of modern civilization. In trying to explain who he was and how he came to be the object of others' admiration and abuse, Rousseau analyses with unique insight the relationship between an elusive but essential inner self and the variety of social identities he was led to adopt. The book vividly illustrates the mixture of moods and motives that underlie the writing of autobiography: defiance and vulnerability, self-exploration and denial, passion, puzzlement, and detachment. Above all, Confessions is Rousseau's search, through every resource of language, to convey what he despairs of putting into words: the personal quality of one's own existence.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Rousseau Confessions Livres VII a XII/Rousseau Confessions 7-12 (Classiques Larousse)?
It is a work of a genius!!! Apr 8, 2007
There will never be another Jean-Jacques Rousseau and since he lived in a period without radio and television, he is talking to us through his books. While being hailed as one of the intellectual fathers of modern democracy, Rousseau also has a very interesting personality.
I highly recommend Confessions, many lovely short stories are so vivid that a reader almost feels being there with Rousseau.
A classic autobiography Mar 11, 2007
Prior to the appearance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 'Confessions,' there existed very few real autobiographies. The few that did exist were like St. Augustine's 'Confessions,' designed to impart a religious or moral lesson instead of to exhibit or try to justify one's life. By the time Rousseau came along, however, people had begun to see themselves as individuals, not members of a society governed based on religious or monarchical precepts. So though writing one's autobiography may be old hat now, this was a revolutionary thing in the 18th century. This autobiography is also special in that Jean-Jacques reveals himself warts and all. He doesn't gloss over faults or embarrassing incidents; he exhibits all of himself, both the good and the bad.
This book was highly recommended by the wonderful History of the Enlightenment professor I had my senior year of college, and I was thrilled to find a copy (for only 50 cents!) about 5 years later. I'd been eager to read it based on the professor's lurid descriptions of it. He told us that, among other things, Rousseau revealed that he liked to be spanked, he described his sex life, and he had a very interesting problem centered in his midsection, manifested in how he had urinary problems that always seemed to crop up whenever he was about to be integrated into society, such as one time when he was going to be given some money by the king to further his writing, but his problem struck, and he excused himself and went out into the hall, where he ended up urinating on the floor, unable to hold himself, and was laughed at by the servant-women. I was kind of disappointed that the book didn't turn out as spicy as my professor had made it out to be, but I still loved every moment of it just the same. My professor's teasers of what the book contains were just the tip of the iceberg. Among many other fascinating stories and tidbits, we also learn about such things as his extreme shyness with women he was attracted to, how he was a late bloomer who didn't lose his virginity till he was in his early twenties, how several of the women he was attracted to and had relationships with were older women (among them his first lover, Mme. de Warens, who was far more than just a lover but also his teacher, his mentor, and his patron), how he was beaten horribly by the man he was apprenticed to in Geneva as a teenager, the real story behind why he gave all 5 of his kids away to foundling hospitals, the increasing persecutions and exiles he endured, how he engaged in self-gratification, and how, as a young man, he had advances made to him by two other men (one of them a priest). Although one wonders how much paranoia might have played into these growing conspiracies against him he laments. While there is ample evidence that a number of his former friends turned against him (to say nothing of how he was thrown out of a lot of places he tried to find refuge in after 'The Social Contract' and 'Émile' were banned), it also seems kind of weird that so many people would form all of these vast far-reaching conspiracies against him out of nowhere. Still, Jean-Jacques comes across as such an interesting likeable person, whom just about anyone can relate to, that this obsession with these alleged conspiracies can be overlooked. One wishes that the book covered his whole life and not just from 1712 to 1765, since he's just such an interesting character!
My translation is the one by J.M. Cohen, which is over 50 years old now, but gets the job done in spite of a few dated spots. The basic story remains the same in spite of some dated phrases and language (e.g., does anyone under the age of 100 still use diminutive words like "authoress" or "patroness" anymore?). I also wish there had been an index, particularly since what with so many people coming and going in Jean-Jacques's life (he knew so many famous and prominent people in Enlightenment Europe!), it can be kind of hard to keep track of just who's whom. Still, minor quibbles aside, he was a truly fascinating person, and this classic work of autobiography and the Enlightenment is not to be missed.
'Feelings can only be described in terms of their effects' Jan 4, 2007
My feelings when reading this unusual autobiography was one of identification with the writer - I suspect that there are behavioural and biological reasons for this, not ones that can be explained by psychology. The effect on me of the feelings Rousseau generated are indeed strange. I have immense sympathy with the man and yet I have a total lack of understanding of how he could give up his five children shortly after their births - and impose that on his partner too! He certainly fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for me. (Unless, of course, there simply weren't any children but he was unable to confess to that!)
I also felt (feelings again!) that at times Rousseau was quite paranoid. Repeatedly the disasters he presaged were less troubling than I had feared. Over and over we come across what he describes as some of his best times of life. He did have a remarkable way of holding on to the light, even when regrets and threats existed, which tended to lighten some of the darkest times.
His love of women was truly extraordinary - perhaps it was generated by his own childhood experience of being propositioned by a man; perhaps not. It was certainly love - if we believe these are true confessions - and not lust, despite what was going on in the French high society he hovered around.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for me is that a very gifted philosopher can be wracked by self doubts and uncertainties.
Other recommendations: 'Diaries' - Alma Schindler (Mahler-Werfel) 'Memoirs' - Hector Berlioz 'Memoirs of a Revolutionist' - Peter Kroptkin 'Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman' - William Godwin
How to understand your life-- the best autobiography ever written Jan 1, 2007
Maybe you read Rousseau in college and your teacher mentioned EMILE. If you were lucky, he or she mentioned this, perhaps the greatest autobiography ever written. I read it when I was in my early twenties; it helped me to understand my feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and alienation. Years later, when I went to work for a large corporation, we had weekly meetings nominally about legal and regulatory issues, but the real "issues" on the participants' minds were the things they were talking about with each other before and after the meetings. I started reading excerpts from this book at our meetings. Everyone wanted to know what I was reading from. This was way before "book groups" became fashionable.
Rousseau was one of the most influential philosophers of the "Enlightenment", but he was also a humanitarian in the sense that he always looked for the good in others. Sometimes he found it. You will feel this when reading this wonderful book. My copy from thirty years ago has my handwritten notes in the back that I have trouble reading now, but I know what the notes refer to, still recall the feelings I had when I made those notes, and remember how I wondered if I would ever understand how to live my life, how to relate to friends and family, how to figure out what is going on, most importantly how to deal with feelings. This book will not give you the answers, but it will give you the reassurance that your wonder and bewilderment are normal for thinking, sensitive persons. And that helps a lot. All this from one of the greatest literary artists since Plato.
You will want to read passages to your friends. Just as I did all those years ago. And compared to some celebrated "coming of age" novels, this is the "Holy Bible".
The authenticity of a personal fiction Nov 30, 2006
In his essay "On Rhetoric", Stanley Corngold addresses the rhetorical signs of autobiographical elements, and the use of language to create disruption, confusion, clarity or a sense of authenticity in the text, whether or not it actually is autobiographical or "a fictive chronicle of memory". Written elements of fiction can still function as an authentically constructed memory, and here Corngold makes a distinction between the lie and the fiction; an all important distinction for reading autobiographies like Rousseau's The Confessions. Figurative writing that refers to certain authentic emotions or personal imaginations of the writer, is considered fiction, whereas the conscious addition of a written element that does not belong to the memory or experiences of the author, is a lie. Corngold considers the imagination to be superior over fulfillment. However, when a text is confessional in nature, the justification of the own identity and self by showcasing its sincerity and integrity, and thus its contrast to the imagination, is at stake. Corngold states that the rhetoric as Rousseau uses it in his Confessions, promises a truthful description of emotions. Corngold points out that abstractions like emotions and sensations are impossible to accurately describe in words, especially when one considers the possibility of the narrator's own memory deceiving him. He discusses the Rousseau's intent when he wrote his autobiography, and concludes that the question of whether this was a cognitive or confessional intent is problematic but can be analyzed by studying Rousseau's use of rhetoric.
Rousseau focuses mainly on his memories of moods in his autobiography The Confessions. One of the defining personal aspects that guide him in this is a sense of self-loss, and Rousseau seems to attempt to find and present himself by as accurately and truthful as possible describing his past actions and the sensation that caused and were caused by them. An air of a self-indulgent narcissitic, yet apologetic and insecure personality surrounds Rousseau's autobiography, but nevertheless it is this underlying sense of this personality that the reader gets from this work that may very well be the most truthful autobiographical element of The Confessions. Rousseau makes a distinction between his moods at the time of writing his autobiography and the past emotions he describes in his work, but doesn't openly acknowledge the likely possibility of the present mood influencing the memory of past sensations. However, I do value Rousseau's autobiography as authentic, as the emotions that he describes in his work were indeed descriptive of the sensations he must have felt while writing down his memories. In this regard, I think that the authenticity I perceive in Rousseau's work may not be the authenticity he intended to be perceived by a reader. In my opinion, it is impossible to narrate one's memories and past emotions as they actually were, without any influence of the present perceptions and moods of the narrator, and without taking into account that moods and moments sometimes last only seconds. However, I do agree with Corngold when it comes to prioritizing the imagination over the actual fulfillment and am convinced that Rousseau's imaginations about himself were not lies, but authentic fictions of and about himself.