Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
The Substance of Instruction in Rousseau's Essay on Spectacles
Keiko Terasaki
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1999 Volume 66 Issue 4 Pages 454-462


In his critical essay on theatre, Lettre a M.d'Alembert, J.-J.Rousseau declared that a republic needed a festival (fete) more than a theatre (the a tre). His argument is fundamentally based on instruction, although this has not been grasped thus far. This paper makes his passage, as competition or recreation in a festival had formed a public instruction (instruction publique), comprehensible, and aims to define the substance of the word 'instruction' in Rousseau's thought. Rousseau's argument in Lettre a M.d'Alembert consists of two contrasts. One is between Rousseau's observation on theatre and the contemporary theorists'. They observed the interaction of transmission between the performance on the stage and the spectators; the performance demonstrated good examples of sentiments, and the audience absorbed them. A desirable representation of a drama on the stage succeeded in reformation of the mores and the sentiments, and could induce people into good conduct. Theorists endorsed an instructional effect in theatre. Rousseau could not agree with their observations. In his observation, the theatrical representation was not the presentation of ideal types of sentiments, but a realistic show of the nature of sentiments; the audience took delight in the reflection of sentiments. Rousseau did not consider that the experience of the audience in a theatre could lead to instruction. The other contrast is between the state of sentiments of spectators in theatres and that of participants in festivals. Rousseau observed the sentiments in theatre consisted in pleasure of projection; the audience found itself immobile and inactive, and members of the audience seriously identified themselves with dramatic personae, and they took great pleasure in fixing their eyes on their resemblances on the stage. Consequently, each audience member became isolated. Rousseau, meanwhile, observed that the sentiments in festivals consisted in pleasure of accordance; the participants appreciated the delicate and profound harmonies that the ensemble created. Rousseau noted that the experience of participants in festivals could evoke instruction. The word 'instruction' in Rousseau's argument can be construed as the following: (1) instruction cannot certainly connote teaching and learning. This means instruction is not caused by a correlation of propagation between two parts, showing and looking, or the objects and the subjects. (2) instruction can be evoked not only from the sense of sight but also from the integration of senses. In such an actual experience, everyone can perceive intuitively the nature which is invisible and unfathomable, and which is in the profundity of spirit. (3) instruction cannot occur indirectly. This means instruction relates not with the experience of privately thinking through the real objects or the simulation, but with that of generatively and naturally acting in a congenial associative context.

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