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N.2/2021 Filosofia e generi letterari nel XVIII secolo

Una genealogia del discorso autobiografico moderno: narrazione alla prima persona e contestazione del ridicolo nelle Confessioni di Rousseau

Andrea Inglese

Published in December, 2021

A genealogy of modern autobiographical discourse: first-person narration and the rebuttal of ridicule in Rousseau’s Confessions.

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Abstract

The article attempts a genealogy of Rousseau’s Confessions, one of the paradigms of modern autobiographical narration. The narrative strategy of the book is understood in dialogical terms: a narration of the self is undertaken in order to generate effects on a public of contemporaries with the aim of changing the view they had formed on the personality of the philosophe, and especially of countervailing the idea of a lack of coherence between his doctrine and his deeds. The autobiographical ‘monologue’ is therefore analyzed as a reply to a previously formed judgment, a reply that is not merely defensive and apologetic. It rather entails a work of expression of a new kind, one that differs in style and narrative modes from the traditional forms of the representation of the self (memoirs, consolations, etc.). It will be argued that the accusation that pestered Rousseau during a conspicuous portion of his public life was ridicule and that the mask of which he felt prisoner is that of the alazon, the character-type that, according to Northrop Frye, is a constant of the genre of comedy from Ancient Greece up to the satirical novels of the beginning of Nineteenth Century. Rousseau’s mode of autobiography is thus analyzed as the narrative reply of the sensitive hero, in which an inner life invisible to the others is shown in order to counteract the inexpressivity to which the comic mask had condemned him.

Keywords

Autobiography; comedy; alazon; genres of discourse; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; mask.

DOI:

10.53129/gcsi_02-2021-07

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