Sites of modernity: Rousseau and the state of nature

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This article offers a fresh reading of Rousseau’s account of the state of nature, arguing that it is neither simply empirical nor straightforwardly fictional but rather functions as a paratextual site that, like other paratexts, places the text on the limits of which it is itself situated. The article shows how Rousseau’s writing also takes up a paratextual relationship to modernity, inhabiting and disrupting its sites with their characteristic ways of understanding space, relationships and practice. At a moment when late modernity is seeking to resituate itself in relation to its colonial and racialized past, a past in which the state-of-nature concept played a central role, Rousseau can help us to gain a critical distance from the characteristic gestures of modernity that are still with us today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-197
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journal of French Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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