Reveries of the Solitary Walker

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Reveries of the Solitary Walker
Reveries-Rousseau.jpg
Published in 1782.
AuthorJean-Jacques Rousseau

Les Reveries of the Solitary Walker (French: Les rêveries du Promeneur Solitaire) is an unfinished book by Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written between 1776 and 1778. It was the last of a number of works composed toward the end of his life which were deeply autobiographical in nature. Previous elements in this group included The Confessions and Dialogues: Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques.

The book is divided into ten chapters called "Walks" (“Promenades” in the original French). Walks One to Seven are complete, the Eighth and Ninth Walks were completed but not revised by Rousseau, while the Tenth Walk was incomplete at the author’s death. The first publication was in 1782.

The content of the book is a mix of autobiographical anecdote, descriptions of the sights, especially plants, that Rousseau saw in his walks on the outskirts of Paris, and elaborations and extensions of arguments previously made by Rousseau in fields like education and political philosophy.

The work is in large parts marked by serenity and resignation, but also bears witness to Rousseau’s awareness of the ill-effects of persecution towards the end of his life.

Reception[edit]

The reveries of the Solitary Walker (as it appears in Rousseau's original manuscript has been described as the most beautiful book composed by Rousseau, comprising a series of exquisitely crafted essays.[1][2] It has been argued that each of the ten walks in Rousseau's book has a unique musical tonality combined with internal variations.[2] "He struck a new romantic note by suggesting that the meditative spirit may always find in nature something responsive to its mood."[1] Before Rousseau's book the word "reverie" had a negative connotation: a 1771 dictionary defined the word as "ridiculous imagination" or "anxieties and cares that preoccupy the mind." Through his book, Rousseau helped create a positive connotation for the word by reveling in experiences that circumvented conscious thought.[2]

In terms of contemporary reception, scholar Jenny Mander observes Rousseau’s complicity towards colonialism and exploitation while Rousseau is describing the sights that he is observing.[3] For example, Rousseau mentions a factory that was the site of expansion, economic prosperity, and complete domination for France at the time, and the work was done by the hands of slaves.[4] Although he argues against slavery in his infamous Social Contract, Mander argues that he was talking solely metaphorically and did not actual think about the practical implications and the constant destruction of black bodies who were working at the factory that aided France’s prosperity. [5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Will Durant (1967). The Story of Civilization Volume 10:Rousseau and Revolution. Simon & Schuster. p. 886.
  2. ^ a b c Leo Damrosch (2005). Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 481.
  3. ^ Mander, J. (2019). Colonialism and Slavery. In M. Moriarty & J. Jennings (Eds.), The Cambridge History of French Thought (pp. 271-278). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316681572.033
  4. ^ Mander, J. (2019). Colonialism and Slavery. In M. Moriarty & J. Jennings (Eds.), The Cambridge History of French Thought (pp. 271-278). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316681572.033
  5. ^ Mander, J. (2019). Colonialism and Slavery. In M. Moriarty & J. Jennings (Eds.), The Cambridge History of French Thought (pp. 271-278). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316681572.033

External links[edit]