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Open SecretsLiterature, Education, and Authority from J-J. Rousseau to J. M. Coetzee$
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Michael Bell

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199208098

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208098.001.0001

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Imaginary Authority in Rousseau’s Emile

Imaginary Authority in Rousseau’s Emile

(p.17) 1 Imaginary Authority in Rousseau’s Emile
Open Secrets

Michael Bell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an exposition of Rousseau's Emile in relation to the question of pedagogy's intrinsic blindness to the limits of its own authority. In its successive drafts, Rousseau's treatise was increasingly novelised and is commonly referred to as a novel. That Rousseau should have turned to novelistic methods reflects the important affinity between the educational process and the novel form and he gives many principled suggestions which were to be taken up in the later tradition of the Bildungsroman, including his central principle of delay, his utopianism, and his historical contextualising. But Emile is not itself a novel, and indeed remains blind to what might be at stake in the slippage of categories between educational treatise and fiction. This slippage denotes Rousseau's significant blindness to the question of authority: he cannot recognise how imaginary is his own exercise of authority in the text.

Keywords:   Rousseau, Bildungsroman, treatise, utopianism

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