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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Love, lust and courtship in the style of Rousseau

By Nina Pearlman, on 14 February 2012

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

“The First Kiss of Love” from La Nouvelle Héloïse

By Cathrine Alice Liberg

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?

Whether or not you wish to use Rousseau as a guide to your own dating life, we wish to spread the love by encouraging visitors to share their own love declarations on our pin board for the coming two weeks! Whether to a person or a passion – let us know what makes your heart tick!

Starting off with the more affective side in these days of romance, every two weeks we will be highlighting new aspects of Rousseau in order to showcase the multiple talents of his fascinating character. While Rousseau is well-known for his political and social theories which inspired the leaders of the French Revolution, very few people realise just what a multifaceted person he was. Many of our visitors are not aware that not only did Rousseau have strong opinions on education and inequality, but he also found time to write gripping operas and novels such as La Nouvelle Héloïse!

Our hope is to encourage visitor interaction and to allow you to share your thoughts on the man – what aspects of him are still relevant today, and is there even a point in marking his tercentenary?

Look out for new displays and activities on Rousseau in the following weeks to come!


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