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

  • Editors: John C. O'Neal, Ourida Mostefai
  • Pages: xiii & 157 pp.
  • Published: 2003
  • ISBN: 9780873529105 (Cloth)
  • ISBN: 9780873529112 (Paperback)
Approaches to Teaching Rousseau's Confessions and Reveries of the Solitary Walker Cover

“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.