8/19/09

The Philosophical Parent: Rousseau's Emile

I'm awfully jealous of Julie Powell, the woman who catapulted herself to fame and fortune by cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, blogging about it, and writing a book about it. Her life is now celebrated in the wonderful movie Julie and Julia and she seems to have a lucrative writing career. I keep thinking: what can I do?

So here's what I've come up with. In keeping with my current writing project about parenting, maybe I could read Rousseau's Emile, and perform experiments on my own children to test out his theories. I'm not quite sure what that would entail. There is this slightly alarming passage in the first few pages:
From the outset raise a wall round your child's soul; another may sketch the plan, you alone should carry it into execution.
That wall sounds a little scary... and should I really trust Monsieur Rousseau to "sketch the plan"? But then there is this nugget of wisdom:
There are rare occasions when a son may be excused for lack of respect for his father, but if a child could be so unnatural as to fail in respect for the mother who bore him and nursed him at her breast, who for so many years devoted herself to his care, such a monstrous wretch should be smothered at once as unworthy to live.
Well, to say the very least.

Have you read Emile? Is it the kind of book that can really be read, cover to cover, without undue suffering? Does it matter which translation one reads?

7 comments:

amos said...

I've never read Rousseau, but he doesn't have a good reputation as a parent, since he abandoned his own children in an orphanage, not a classy one either.

Faust said...

I've read some of Emile, but haven't read the whole thing. I have been given to understand it's very intense. Honestly it's not on my list right now. Too many damn books to read.

Jean Kazez said...

I think his abandonment of his own children is one thing that makes this book fascinating. I'm looking forward to feeling totally outraged. He says THAT, but abandons his own children???

amos said...

It's like reading a book against adultery by Bill Clinton, but to each, his own.....

Jean Kazez said...

Or Jefferson on slavery.

With GWB out of office, there are alot fewer occasions for wild bouts of righteous indignation, so I have to pore through the classics.

Faust said...

"With GWB out of office, there are alot fewer occasions for wild bouts of righteous indignation, so I have to pore through the classics."

I dunno I managed to feel outraged pretty much every day, but then, I loathe the media.

amos said...

The media can be very loathsome. For my mental health, I stopped watching television completely 4 years ago. Don't miss it. I only buy the newspaper every other Sunday, and that's because it's the cheapest source of paper, which is used for several household purposes. I've also cut back on numerous online media sources. I generally stick to the BBC online. The Guardian and especially the New York Times can really damage my blood pressure.