Passion, Love, and the Price of Virtue
This paper situates Julie, or the New Heloise in relation to Rousseau’s more familiar texts by reading it as concerned with the tensions among morality, culture and human nature. In Julie this takes the form of a conflict among virtue, love, and sexual passion. Neuhouser compares Julie’s view of that conflict with that of its literary predecessor, the letters of Abelard and Heloise, and argues that Julie is Rousseau’s attempt to modernize that tale of love by seeking a resolution of its central conflict that respects the constraints of nature. The key to this is preserving the lovers’ bond by creating a shared life of mutual care and affection in which sexual love has been replaced by a fraternal bond. This attempt, however, leaves behind a residue of sexual passion that retains its power to act as virtue’s opponent.
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