This Friday (3/11) UMN's political theory colloquium will host Jill Locke (Political Science and Women's Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College). Jill will briefly present her work "Rousseau, The Misfit's Hero," followed by a longer discussion. The colloquium will be in 1314 Social Sciences at 1:30; coffee will be served.
The paper is at http://www.polisci.umn.edu/centers/theory/schedule.html
Abstract: An extraordinarily pluralistic group of eighteenth-century men and women were drawn to Rousseau"s writings and Rousseau himself because of his sympathetic portrait of the person who did not fit into the artificial and inegalitarian culture of le monde. Some of these men, like Jean-Paul Marat, became revolutionaries; Jean-Marie-Bernard Clément, by contrast, found Rousseauean inspiration for his labors in the Counter-Enlightenment. Stranger still, Olympe de Gouges, whose life and work represented all that Rousseau feared, claimed an enormous debt to Rousseau as the person who helped her imagine an
unashamed and authentic life that was free from the shackles of social expectations.
In this paper, I explore "Three Rousseaus" (the Romantic, the Tutor, and the Legislator) with this reception history in mind, highlighting the ways in which Rousseau"s paeans to the authentic life and desire to protect the misfit from social shame radicalize his republican thought in exciting ways. Yet at the same time, perhaps because Rousseau was aware of the pluralism of his readers and his following by women in particular, I show how his texts forestall these romantic implications. By closing off the romantic republic from literary women and the men with whom they dwell, Rousseau strives to protect the misfit who animates his defense of the authentic life--the simple, provincial man. Against current trends in political theory, I affirm Rousseau"s concern with the psychological state of the misfit and his willingness to see it in political terms, but caution against the effort to guarantee the misfit or any other citizen a social or political life that is free from the injuries of shame. It is this move of seeking to guarantee the misfit a life free from anything that will mock or humiliate him that enables Rousseau to close off the public to others who were eager to take up his an invitation to live an authentic life.