Rousseau and the Visual

Friday, October 4, 2002–Saturday, October 5, 2002
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Patrick Coleman, University of California, Los Angeles and Byron Wells, Wake Forest University

If Jean-Jacques Rousseau is perhaps best known in the United States as the author of The Social Contract and is most frequently discussed even in academic circles in terms of his literary and political writings, it should not be forgotten that the eighteenth-century philosophe was vitally interested in the aesthetic, metaphoric, and didactic value of the visual. Rousseau, after all, was personally involved in the commissioning and supervision of the engravings that accompanied La Nouvelle Héloïse. His repertoire included plays and opera. And he was a passionate botanist in his later years. In other words, the vivid imagination that Rousseau describes in his autobiographical texts translated itself into a passion for representation. That Rousseau’s own productions exerted a considerable influence on future generations for the subjects he chose as well as for his vision of the world is unarguable. Reminders of his interests are to be found in such areas as the visual and performing arts, botanical plates, even in fashion. The conference brings together a group of scholars from various disciplines to address this often overlooked yet important feature of Rousseau’s works.