"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Writer's Block

I should be writing an essay right now. Needless to say, I'm not. The subject is Jean Jacques Rousseau's views on passion vs. reason. No, I don't have a clue how to write five to eight pages on this topic. I have begun by rereading some of his Confessions. What's this? It appears Rousseau himself struggled with putting words on paper. He admits, “My ideas arrange themselves in my head with almost incredible difficulty... Hence comes the extreme difficulty which I find in writing. My manuscripts, scratched, smeared, muddled and almost illegible, bear witness to the trouble they have cost me.” (671). Unable to sit down and write impromptu, he instead slowly mulled things over in his head, often for days. “I write in my brain; one may judge how slowly, especially in the case of a man utterly without verbal memory and who has never been able to learn six lines by heart in his life. Many of my periods have been turned and turned again five or six nights in my head before they were fit to be set down on paper” (672). Letters were even worse for Rousseau. He says that “such occupation is a perfect torture to me. I cannot write a letter on the most trifling subject, which does not cost me hours of fatigue” (672).

Well, I suppose I'm not alone after all. Still, if anyone has resources to recommend on Rousseau's flight from reason into the land of feelings, I still have a few more days before this paper is due. I'm tired of feeling like I can't write this and instead want a reason to hope I can write an intelligent essay.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Confessions. The Norton Anthology of World Literature: 1650-1800: Volume D. Ed. Sarah Lawall and Maynard Mack. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton Company, 2002.


David Haddon said...

Hey Brian, When ya gonna send me a copy of your paper on Rousseau and the Passions. Don't you want a critique from someone with a Christian worldview? Before you send it, you do need to know that I have worked as an English teacher and as an editor and don't have much tolerance for errors of grammar and punctuation. That is, I tend to mark them up in detail.

Regardless, Rousseau sheds a lot of that dark light Milton describes in the first stanza of "Paradise Lost." I think that dark light is a chief characteristic of the so-called "Enlightenment" of the 18th Century. If you can illuminate Rousseau at all, I'm ready to learn something new.

David Haddon said...

Your instructor seems determined to lead you away from the Western canon of literature for insights into it. But you seem to have outfoxed her with references to Augustine and Chekov. Or was the Chekov an assigned reading?