ENGL 2210 World Literature II

Rousseau: Confessions - Study Guide

    Book I
  1. How does the narrator see himself as being unique?
  2. Feeling vs thinking. When the narrator says "I felt before I thought, which is the common lot of men." it is also true for the romantic persona. How does this compare to the persona of the Enlightenment? Does feeling or thinking lead to knowledge?
  3. Comment on this quote: "I had no idea of the facts, but I was already familiar with every feeling. I had grasped nothing. I had sensed everything."
  4. Describe, providing specific examples, how he is treated by the people around him. What is his upbringing like? The implication is that this is how children ought to be brought up. What's your opinion on this?
  5. What kind of "crimes" does he admit to on page 294?
  6. How was the narrator influenced by his aunt? Provide specific examples. What are some of her unique qualities?
  7. Rousseau desribes his relationship with his cousin (page 295) as an ideal form of friendship. What are the main charactersitics of this friendship?
  8. Describe his experience at Bossey and with Mlle Lambercier. How does he react to verbal and corporal puishment?
  9. How does he describe his early experience of "passion" toward women. Page 297.
  10. In the first paragraph on page 298 he describes the ideal romantic lover. Describe some of these characteristics. Do you think there is any truth to this? "To fall on my knees befor a masterful mistress..."
  11. Why has he not been very successful with women?
  12. What do you think is the point of his retelling of the events regarding Mlle Lambercier's comb? How has it affected him later in life? (pages 299-300)
  13. Book II
  14. What do you think is the ppoint of the false accusations against Marion? How did it affect him later in life? "Remorse sleeps while fate is kind but grows sharp in adversity."

  15. Book III
  16. How does he describe his feelings for Mme de Warrens? (first paragraph on page 304). Describe their relationship. Look for expressions that describe his feelings in her presence.
  17. Describe his feelings when she is absent. (page 306)
  18. What distinction does he make between his heart and his mind? (bottom of page 306)
  19. Explain this statement: "I feel everything and I see nothing."
  20. Why does the romantic have difficulty having a conversation with someone?

  21. Book IV
  22. The narrator says that objects make less an imperssion on him than the memory of them. He laso says that he would like to make his soul transparent to the reader. How are these charactersitics of the romantic?

  23. Book V
  24. In this book the narrator returns to the subject of love and passion. Describe how he experience both of these with women.

  25. Book VI
  26. This book deals with the question of whether the narrator lead a good life. He also finds it difficult to describe what he has experienced: "but how is it possible to describe what was nether said nor done, nor even thought, but enjoyed and felt, without being able to assign any other reason for my happiness than this simple feeling." This point to the problem that the romantic encounters when trying to describe emotion using language.
  27. How does he try to figure out if when he dies he is going to be saved or damned? Do you think the answer is important to him?