|[a] JJR RF|
And, just for the record, regular readers probably already know that I will post the actual lectures not long after they have been given. This week's posts focus on the preparation process, and tackling Allan Bloom's arguments should get your blood pumping. Today's text comes from the foreword to his 1978 translation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile. Rousseau considered his treatise to be a definitive and authentic argument for crafting "natural man" who can negotiate the ferocious pitfalls of civil society.
|[b] Remarkable RF|
There is something bigger, though. "Anybody" (meaning any deeply-learned person with a powerful grasp of Greek, English and political theory, as well as the dedication to spend the better part of a decade wrestling with the text)...anybody could have done another Republic translation. Rousseau's Emile is different. Unlike the same author's Confessions and the Social Contract, very few American readers were familiar with one of the greatest works ever written—a "story" of raising a child (little Emile) from birth until marriage. Allan Bloom shows his genius for understanding the most formative texts of Western civilization by placing these two works side-by-side. "Anybody" (see above) could translate the Republic. Only a Francophilic genius could pick the Emile out of obscurity and raise it to the level it deserves among American readers. Let's look again at yesterday's paragraph before moving on to the foreword to the English translation of the Emile.
Finally, in terms of my own experience of these last twenty-five years,
after the Republic I translated Rousseau's Emile, the greatest modern
book on education. Rousseau was one of the great readers of Plato, and
from my time on that work I gained an even greater respect for the Republic.
Emile is its natural companion, and Rousseau proved his greatness by
entering the lists in worthy combat with it. He shows that Plato articulated
first and best all the problems, and he himself differs only with respect
to some of the solutions. If one takes the two books together, one has the
basic training necessary for the educational wars. And wars they are, now
that doctrine tells us that these two books are cornerstones of an outlived
canon. So, I conclude, the Republic is always useful to students who read it,
but now more than ever.
|[c] Henri...nature RF|
This translation is meant
to give the reader a
certain confidence that
he is thinking about
Rousseau and not about
me, as well as to inspire
in him a disconcerting
awareness that, to be
sure, he must learn French....
|[d] Captain Nimes-o RF|
The translation aims above all, at accuracy. Of course, no intelligible translation could be strictly literal and simply bad English would misrepresent Rousseau's very good French. Style cannot be separated from substance. But unless the translator himself were a genius of Rousseau's magnitude, the attempt to imitate the felicity of his language would fail and would distort and narrow his meaning. One would have to look at what one can say well in English rather than at Rousseau's thought. He is a precise and careful writer. He speaks of a real world of which we all have experience, no matter what our language. He, above all writers, thought he spoke to all men. The translator must concentrate on making his English point to the same things Rousseau's French points to. And this is best done by finding the closest equivalents to his words and sticking to them, even when that causes inconvenience.
|[e] Eglise translation RF|
|[f] 1759 RF|
I undertook this translation with a selfish motive; I thought it the best way to familiarize myself with a book which was very alien to me but which seemed to contain hidden treasures. One of the results of this project has been a new sense of what it means to be a teacher and of the peculiar beauty of the relationship between teacher and student. Only Socrates rivals Rousseau in the depth and detail of understanding of that most generous of associations. And learning from Rousseau has given me the occasion to learn from my students while teaching them. Over the past eight years I have given several classes on Emile, and the interest it provoked gave evidence of its usefulness. By students' questions and suggestions I have been led toward the heart of the text. It provided a ground for community among us in the quest for understanding ourselves. As this translation progressed, I have used it in my classes and my first thanks go to all those students who read and corrected it, testing it in the situation for which it was intended....
|[g] Grande RF|
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile [Translated with an introduction by Allan Bloom] (New York: Basic Books, 1979),vii-ix.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Emile [Translated with an introduction by Allan Bloom]. New York: Basic Books, 1979.