Frail Happiness: An Essay on Rousseau

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"We are all confronted, at one time or another, with choices as to what sort of life we will lead." So Tzvetan Todorov begins Frail Happiness, an important interpretation of Rousseau, one suffused with Todorov’s own moral seriousness and intellectual depth. While ranging widely through Rousseau’s corpus with skill and scholarly authority Todorov returns, again and again, to the fragile yet persistent hope for human happiness.

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Overview

"We are all confronted, at one time or another, with choices as to what sort of life we will lead." So Tzvetan Todorov begins Frail Happiness, an important interpretation of Rousseau, one suffused with Todorov’s own moral seriousness and intellectual depth. While ranging widely through Rousseau’s corpus with skill and scholarly authority Todorov returns, again and again, to the fragile yet persistent hope for human happiness.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This translation . . . is doubly welcome. . . . [It] offers readers both an insightful interpretation of Rousseau, one that presents him explicitly as a moral theorist, and an introduction to Todorov’s own contributions to what he calls a ‘critical humanism’.”
—Zev M. Trachtenberg, Ethics

“All the same, Frail Happiness remains possibly the most successful of Tzvetan Todorov’s writings on the history of ideas: if the text is little more than a collage of quotations and well-chosen images, it is sustained by great intuition and emotional sympathy; crafted with admirable modesty and sparing means, it succeeds in conveying the essence of Rousseau’s thinking, offering an excellent, reader-friendly introduction to anyone wishing to approach his works.”
—Biancamaria Fontana, Times Literary Supplement

“In Frail Happiness, Todorov argues for the coherence of Rousseau, against those who prefer to underscore his contradictions. In its very simplicity it is an elegant presentation, one that will doubtless attract many readers.”
—Philip Stewart, Duke University

Booknews
Todorov (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris) is a linguist, literary theorist, and essayist. He explains that he turned to the thought and writing of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) because he no longer found the professional language of scholarship an effective means of addressing important questions about life changes. He includes a bibliography and a chronological list of Rousseau's writing. was published by Hachette in 1985 and translated by John T. Scott (political science, U. of California-Davis) and Robert D. Zaretsky (French, U. of Houston). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271024004
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Tzvetan Todorov is a director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. A linguist, literary theorist, and world-renowned essayist, he is the author of numerous books, several of which have been translated into English, including: Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria (Penn State, 1999).

John T. Scott is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Davis.

Robert D. Zaretsky is Associate Professor of French at the University of Houston, where he holds a joint appointment in the Honors College and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the English edition
1 The structure of the doctrine 5
2 The citizen 21
3 The solitary individual 31
4 The moral individual 55
Chronological list of works by Rousseau (1712-1778) cited in the text 67
Major secondary works consulted 69
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