28. Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” 294.

Keywords: Language, Expression, Sound Poetry, 20th Century, Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, Zaum, (Russian) Futurism, Alexei Kruchenykh, Ultra-Lettrism, Modernism, Voice, François Dufrêne, Gil J. Wolman.

31. Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” 296.

Week 2:
January 17: Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages
January 20: Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages


44. Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” 295–6.

47. Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” 294.

1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Essay on the Origin of Languages,” in Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music, trans. and ed. John T. Scott (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 1998).


Rousseau attributes to all creatures an instinctual drive towardsself-preservation. Human beings therefore have such a drive,which he terms amour de soi (self love). Amour de soidirects us first to attend to our most basic biological needs forthings like food, shelter and warmth. Since, for Rousseau, humans, likeother creatures, are part of the design of a benevolent creator, theyare individually well-equipped with the means to satisfy their naturalneeds. Alongside this basic drive for self-preservation,Rousseau posits another passion which he termspitié (compassion). Pitiédirects us to attend to and relieve the suffering of others (includinganimals) where we can do so without danger to our ownself-preservation. In some of his writings, such as the SecondDiscourse, pitié is an original drive thatsits alongside amour de soi, whereas in others, such asEmile and the Essay on the Origin of Languages, it isa development of amour de soi considered as the origin of allpassions.