What can Enlightenment philosophes – especially Rousseau, arguably the most difficult of them all – have to tell us about modern life that we don’t already know?
A team of scholars from different academic areas—Barbara Abrams, PhD., Suffolk University; Mira Morgenstern, PhD, The City College of New York; and Karen Sullivan, PhD, Queens College/CUNY share unique vantage points in understanding Rousseau’s texts. This constellation of approaches – grounded in an appreciation of the shared background of feminist critique – provides the density that allows Rousseau’s nuanced writings to be read in their full complexity.
The three focus on a relatively unfamiliar work of Rousseau’s, Le Lévite d’Ephraïm, a prose-poem in which Rousseau elaborates on a little-known Hebrew biblical text to interrogate many of the accepted, conventional views on issues ranging from the role of sacred texts; to Rousseau’s self-construction through the representation of guilt and remorse; to the role of hospitality in structuring both individual self-representation and social cohesion; to the place of violence in establishing national and communal self-identity. In each of these spheres, Rousseau reveals a particularly modern perspective in trying to honor both personal and social needs, and in privileging both the individual viewpoint and the political structure.
BIO: Karen Sullivan
Associate Professor of French at Queens College/City University of New York. She has written a book on Rousseau’s aesthetics and articles on Rousseau, Graffigny and Gouges. Her forthcoming work on Rousseau explores Rousseau’s work through the lens of 20th-century trauma theory.
BIO: Barbara Abrams
Professor Abrams’ is the Director of the Global and Cultural Studies Major Program. Her work focuses on Global and Cultural Studies, French literature of the Enlightenment and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her most recent work includes an archival research project titled ReSisters which examines women cloistered against their will in 18th century France, and a multi-graph book titled Reframing Rousseau’s Le Lévite d’Ephraïm: The Hebrew Bible, Hospitality, and Modern Identity. Her book, Le Bizarre and Le Décousu in the Novels and Theoretical Works of Denis Diderot: How the Idea of Marginality Originated in Eighteenth-Century France, examines the background of our modern concept of marginality by focusing on Diderot’s materialist philosophy. Professor Abrams is the academic liaison for the Suffolk/CAVILAM intensive French program in Vichy, France and the student exchange program at the Catholic University of Lille.
BIO: Mira Morgenstern
is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the Colin Powell School of the City College of New York. She is currently at work on a study of the Social Contract entitled The Social Contract and the Politics of the Imagination.