By Jean Starobinski

This quantity is a translation of decisions of L'Oeil vivant (1961 and 70). Annotation copyright publication information, Inc. Portland, Or.

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Extra resources for The Living Eye (Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature)

Sample text

Mysterious as they may be in his imagination, there is nothing in them that escapes him by its very essence. All their intentions are clear. He does not encounter in them those obscure, unfathomable, unknowable depths that inevitably arouse suspicion in real witnesses. Indeed, JeanJacques's gaze upon his visions and the witness' gaze upon JeanJacques are mutually exclusive. That is why he guards his solitude so jealously, even at the risk of being taken for a misanthrope. He can converse with his dear phantoms only if no one sees him.

Second, the inner spectacle has at its disposal a multitude of intimate details, remembered or invented. "27 The gaze fails to seize its prey, halting at objects made sacred by Julie's touch. In the end it invents the whole of the spectacle it coveted in reality. What a strange diversion, from the beloved to the things that surround her and finally to the Active image of the desired being. This movement is characteristic of Jean-Jacques's affective behavior. Among other things, it reveals the possibility of slipping into fetishism.

Without sacrificing intensity desire will change its nature, modify its hopes, set itself new goals. Not only will its distance from the object vary, but the object itself may alter its shape and assume new identities. For to desire differently is already to desire something else. Here we touch upon a dominant characteristic of Rousseau's behavior, his frequent alternation between nonchalance and ardor. More than that, the focus of his passion shifts in singular ways. The pleasure he seeks sees no definite object as its sine qua non.

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