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Out of Desire’s Excess, a Lover: Rousseau between Narcissus and Pygmalion

Out of Desire’s Excess, a Lover: Rousseau between Narcissus and Pygmalion Fayçal Falaky Out of Desire's Excess, a Lover Rousseau between Narcissus and Pygmalion One of the paradoxes of Robespierre's Republic of Virtue is that the author from whom he so largely borrowed did not really consider himself virtuous. Virtue may mean purity of heart and motive in one's daily actions, but as Jean-Jacques Rousseau very well knew, it also implied a constant rational struggle against intrinsic passions and appetites. It is for this reason that in several parts of the Dialogues, Rousseau portrays himself paradoxically as a virtuous man who lacks virtue: "But is there some virtue in that sweetness? None. There is only the inclination of a loving and tender nature [. . .] This very reasonable choice isn't made by either reason or will. It is the work of the pure instinct. It lacks the merit of virtue, doubtless, but neither does it have its instability. One who has surrendered only to the impulses of nature for sixty years is certainly never going to resist them" (RJJ 150).1 It is not difficult to see why Rousseau would characterize himself as such. If, as Saint-Preux warns Julie, "virtue is a state of war" (J 560), belief in http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

Out of Desire’s Excess, a Lover: Rousseau between Narcissus and Pygmalion

The Comparatist , Volume 38 (1) – Oct 31, 2014

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
ISSN
1559-0887
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Abstract

Fayçal Falaky Out of Desire's Excess, a Lover Rousseau between Narcissus and Pygmalion One of the paradoxes of Robespierre's Republic of Virtue is that the author from whom he so largely borrowed did not really consider himself virtuous. Virtue may mean purity of heart and motive in one's daily actions, but as Jean-Jacques Rousseau very well knew, it also implied a constant rational struggle against intrinsic passions and appetites. It is for this reason that in several parts of the Dialogues, Rousseau portrays himself paradoxically as a virtuous man who lacks virtue: "But is there some virtue in that sweetness? None. There is only the inclination of a loving and tender nature [. . .] This very reasonable choice isn't made by either reason or will. It is the work of the pure instinct. It lacks the merit of virtue, doubtless, but neither does it have its instability. One who has surrendered only to the impulses of nature for sixty years is certainly never going to resist them" (RJJ 150).1 It is not difficult to see why Rousseau would characterize himself as such. If, as Saint-Preux warns Julie, "virtue is a state of war" (J 560), belief in

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Oct 31, 2014

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