Blind Love, Romanticism, and Rousseau’s Julie

Lecture | April 11 | 12-2 p.m. | Dwinelle Hall, 4229 - French Department Library

 Alexandra Schamel, Visiting Scholar, Universität Munich

 Comparative Literature, French Studies Program, Institute of European Studies

The lecture examines to what extent Rousseau’s epistolary novel Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse modifies the visual paradigm of eighteenth-century anthropology, as seen in Rousseau’s ideology of substantial nature, by introducing dynamics which produce obscurité, an unattainable dimension of inwardness. The argument leads to the proposal that the subject’s strategies of hiding, masking and transforming its epistemological darkness in the penetrating regime of virtue create central aspects of the romantic mind. The term obscurité shall be illustrated as a dynamic of semantic
“desubstantialisation” originated from the love-wound (Coelen, Derrida). The need for subordination under Wolmar’s “omniscient eye” effects a process of sublimation, in which the obscure semantics of love are transferred into legitimate areas of ontological diffusion, such as dreams, memories, wistfulness and even scarifying death, the very precursors of romanticism. Respective examples will illustrate how Rousseau constructs these threshold phenomena as semantic substitutes for the love affect which is also more and more transmitted into the rhetorical dimension of the letters.