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Approaches to Teaching Rousseau's Confessions and Reveries of the Solitary Walker

Editor(s): John C. O'Neal, Ourida Mostefai

Pages: xiii & 157 pp.
Published: 2003
ISBN: 9780873529112 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780873529105 (hardcover)

"Today Rousseau's diverse writings are listed in the syllabi of innumerable courses in many different disciplines. Thus this volume truly responds to a need on the part of teachers and students. A useful book to the specialist as well as the educated reader and a notable contribution to the profession."
Renée Waldinger, Graduate School, City University of New York

Rousseau is read, literally, all over the world. Given the enormous place autobiographical writing has come to occupy in literary studies, his influence is not surprising. The Confessions, in which Rousseau relates most of the events of his life, and The Reveries of the Solitary Walker, which focuses on his last few years, are his primary contributions to this form, which he essentially reinvented in modern Western literature. Together, the two writings give voice to some of the major political, psychological, literary, ethical, and environmental concerns of our day. This breadth is reflected in the wide spectrum of courses in which Rousseau's works are taught—courses on great books, world literature, political science, autobiography, travel, and women's studies, as well as courses at all levels of French studies.

Like other volumes in the MLA's Approaches to Teaching series, this book is divided into two parts. Part 1, "Materials," reviews the place of the Confessions and Reveries in Rousseau's oeuvre, assesses editions in French and translations into English, provides guidance to important background readings and critical studies, and lists an array of audiovisual resources and Web sites devoted to Rousseau. In part 2, "Approaches," contributors discuss the sources of Rousseau's confessional writings, explore the new literary mode of autobiography, and consider the problems of the public responses to his work. They also scrutinize particular passages and investigate contemporary critical approaches as well as comparative approaches linking Rousseau to other writers, including Wordsworth and Baudelaire. Rounding out the volume are two useful compendiums--a chronology of Rousseau's life and an annotated list of his other major works.

Table of Contents

Approches to Teaching Rousseau's Confessions and Reveries of the Solitary Walker

John C. O'Neal and Ourida Mostefai

The Place of the Confessions and the Rêveries in Rousseau's Oeuvre Editions

Rousseau's Correspondence


Background Reading

Critical Studies

Audiovisual and Other Aids


John C. O'Neal

Teaching Rousseau's Autobiographical Writing

The Confessional Mode in Autobiography: Saint Augustine, Rousseau, and Benjamin Franklin
Jean Perkins

Comparing Prefaces: Rousseau versus Montaigne
Mary Ellen Birkett

An Intertextual Approach to Teaching Rousseau's Confessions
Guillemette Johnston

Teaching Rousseau's Confessions in Translation
Christopher Kelly

From the Confessions to the Rêveries

"Tout le Monde Se Tut": Problems of Rhetoric in Rousseau's Autobiographical Works
Michael O'Dea

From Reverie to Confession: Writing and Reading a Life Story
Byron R. Wells

Problems of Reception

The Dangers of Telling It All
Patrick Coleman

Public Prosecutor Servan and the Reception of the Confessions
Raymond Trousson

The Author as Celebrity and Outcast: Authorship and Autobiography in Rousseau
Ourida Mostefai

Close Readings

Truth and the Other in Rousseau's Confessions
Christie McDonald

Rousseau's Lottery
Thomas M. Kavanagh

Genre and Feminine Duplicity in the Confessions
Sarah Herbold

The Mechanics of Language: Personification in the Rêveries
Virginia E. Swain

The Perceptual Metamorphosis of the Solitary Walker
John C. O'Neal

Comparative Approaches

The Public and the Self: Rousseau and Romanticism
Carl Fisher

Sympathy and Sensibility in Rousseau's Sixth Walk and Wordsworth's "The Old Cumberland Beggar"
Lorraine J. Clark

From the Solitary Walker to the Flâneur: Baudelaire's Caricature of Rousseau
Jean Starobinski

Contemporary Critical Approaches

Altered States
Marie-Hélène Huet

Rêveries of Idleness
Pierre Saint-Amand

Reading Rousseau's Women: Autobiography and Femininity in the Confessions
Christine Roulston


A Brief Chronology of Rousseau's Life, with Selected Corresponding Page References from the Confessions and Rêveries

An Annotated List of Rousseau's Other Works Mentioned in the Essays (and Discussed in the Confessions)

Works Cited


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© 2015 Modern Language Association. Last updated 02/24/2015.