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Images of Rousseau

George Wigmore5 March 2012

Of the many images we have of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the one that continues to define him is as the revolutionary author of The Social Contract, whose political philosophy played a critical role in the French Revolution.

Rousseau was far more than just a renegade philosopher, but his treatises on society and education frequently eclipse his significant contributions to literature, music theory and composition. It is this holistic view of Rousseau that UCL aims to highlight and celebrate on the 300th anniversary of his birth.

With this in mind, I popped down to the UCL Art Museum to hear Dr Avi Lifschitz, Lecturer in European History at UCL, give a talk on the Images of Rousseau, and the contrasting perspectives, and representations, we have of him today.

Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau was pretty different from other philosophers at the time. Taught at home by his father, he was a voracious reader, devouring all the books in his local library and often reading throughout the night with his father.

Religion also featured prominently in the young Rousseau’s life. Moving frequently around France and Switzerland as a young man, he continued to entertain thoughts of a clerical career, with his religion a strong theme in many of his most famous works.

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Love, lust and courtship in the style of Rousseau

news editor24 February 2012

"“The First Kiss of Love” from La Nouvelle Héloïse"

Discover the sentimental side of Rousseau (and yourself!) at UCL Art Museum.

Come Valentine’s Day, we wish to highlight Rousseau’s epistolary novels, most notably his sentimental work La Nouvelle Héloïse which became a predecessor to modern Romantic novels, and was a bestseller back in its days. As for Rousseau himself, he never married, but did manage to father a significant number of children.

His writings however, have been interpreted even in the realm of love as a guide to finding happiness. The long running dating show for farmers, “Boer zoekt vrouw”, is based on Rousseau’s philosophies on “the natural state” in which he praises the simple life as the source of joy and satisfaction. In this Dutch television programme, the love-hungry farmers all work side by side in nature, away from the morally corrupt city of selfishness and greed while trying to win each other’s hearts. Can this be the key to eternal bliss?

More on the UCL Museums & Collections blog

Dictionaries and Dialogues

ucyow3c16 November 2011

If you look into a particular display cabinet in UCL Art Museum’s current exhibition, ‘Word and Image’, you might think that you are looking at a collection of dictionaries. But as Dr Alexander Samson – one of the curators of ‘Word and Image’– explained on Tuesday, they are a great deal more than that. Ben Davies was at the museum to hear more.

Bibliotheca Hispanica

Copyright Special Collections

‘Dictionaries and Dialogues’ was part of the museum’s ‘Pop-Up’ programme, in which different speakers are given free rein to talk about particular pieces in the collections within the museum surroundings.

So, we listened to Dr Samson speak in more intimate surroundings than most lectures offer. We were encouraged to wander among the exhibits in the main gallery as the talk went on, not least because Dr Samson wove discussions of some of the pieces into his lecture, bringing pictures and historical texts to life with explanations of their political and historical significance.

He began by noting that contemporary English speakers are rather unusual in not having translation as a central aspect of our lives, because English is often used as a common language in business and politics, and is fairly dominant in culture such as music and film. (more…)

The Bloomsbury Festival at UCL

news editor3 November 2011

UCL opened its doors to the local community and wider public on 22–23 October as part of the annual Bloomsbury Festival, which celebrates all things Bloomsbury, writes Dr Debbie Challis (UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology).

The UCL Art Museum and Grant Museum of Zoology were open with family activities on Saturday. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology was open all weekend and Saturday evening with Gothic Egypt, one of its themed trails, while UCL’s Open City Documentary showed King Tut documentaries on the big screen of the Darwin Lecture Theatre.

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