'True Love' and Rousseau's Philosophy of History

Rousseau, a philosopher of history? The suggestion may startle those who know him as an enemy of history, the founder of Counter-Enlightenment who rejected his century's hope in progress and conjured quasi-utopias devoid of time. Alone, the political texts seem to justify this interpretation. Side by side with the Emile and Julie sagas, however, they disclose a new Rousseau, the weaver of a master plot that governs private and public history. This essay describes Jean-Jacques' over-arching narrative and the two main subnarratives that compose it by juxtaposing his political and fictional works. In doing so, it contests current conventions about his ideas on women, challenges assumptions about his educational ideals, retrieves new aspects of his debt to Fenelon, and foregrounds the pivotal role that the idea of `true love' plays in his philosophy as the foundation of political community.