Four o’clock. I took out three bags of trash, to Aesop’s distress. But I got him to sit and stay on my command. He can be very good when he understands the necessity for it… I can’t think of anything brilliant to say, but I’ll plod on anyway with my genuine thoughts. Gabapentin is restoring my nerves to better health. Even my sense of hearing is improved. What shall be my next reading project? Another Virginia Woolf might be good. I have a book of Hilda Doolittle that I’ve never read. There’s Faust, Part Two. Rousseau’s Confessions. Blake’s Milton.

Six o’clock. I found my copy of La Nouvelle Heloise by Rousseau in a box and read the introduction. As I guessed, the novel is about the glorification of sentiment and wild nature, which ran contrary to the cultivated gardens and rational restraint of neoclassicism. This seems to me, along with Goethe’s Werther, to be the iconic wellspring of what became the mentality of the Romantic Period. But of course I’m oversimplifying what really happened. No great work of literature exists in a vacuum. It would be convenient to lump an entire movement in one place, slap it between the covers of a book and call it a bible. And to take one or two authors and make them an institution. For reasons like these I make a superhero out of Jean Jacques Rousseau, calling him the grandfather of Romanticism. Then again, what if he was? Can a public figure of great eloquence and influence singlehandedly alter the course of history? The intellectual mainstream? Is it tempting to believe so? Or maybe historians are even now going back and rewriting what happened in the 18th and 19th Centuries. What was once very simple becomes more complex, as the books that were foregrounded fall back to an equal footing with their contemporaries. The old canon dissolves and it’s dubious whether we can even say that there was a period called Romanticism.


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