Courses available in French


Le voyage n’est nĂ©cessaire qu’aux imaginations courtes.

— Colette

French 240A: Studies in 18th Century French Literature — Diderot and Rousseau


Rousseau, Les Confessions, Essai sur l’origine des langues, Emile, Discours sur l’origine de l’inegalitĂ© parmi les hommes, Lettre Ă  M. d’Alembert sur les spectacles; D. Diderot, Oeuvres esthĂ©tiques, La Religieuse, Le SupplĂ©ment au voyage de Bougainville; Derrida, De la Grammatologie; Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Course Description:

This seminar will be an immersion in the writings of two central thinkers of modernity: Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. We will study the ways in which they rethought the foundations of social life, of subjectivity, of politics, of painting, of theater, and of language. We will seek to understand both the artistic and political radicalness of their ambitions. We will consider the ways in which these two iconic figures—their friendship and their rupture—came to figure at once the Enlightenment and the counter-Enlightenment.

We will also pay close attention to the importance of these two figures to the development of theory from the 1960s through the present. Why was Rousseau the most important touchstone for deconstruction? Why does Rousseau occupy such a crucial position in the development of post-structuralism? And why was Diderot, who might seem to be the very epitome of a post-modernist writer, less central, yet of perpetual fascination to theory and criticism?

In addition to the books listed, we will read essays by Paul De Man, Fredric Jameson, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthes, Claude Levi-Strauss, Michael Fried, Robert Darnton, Dena Goodman, Jurgen Habermas, and more.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes