Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

First Advisor

Jefferson Humphries


Jean-Jacques Rousseau's work for the lyric stage comprises several opera libretti (Les Muses galantes and La Decouverte du nouveau monde), an intermede ( Le Devin du village), a scene lyrique ( Pygmalion) and an unfinished opera (Daphnis et Chloce ). These works use as a motif the figure of nature while continually defining and redefining, in a sort of spiral development, the self. Nature represents for Rousseau and others of his century a paradigm allowing for small segments of history to be presented as an evenly construed narrative. For Rousseau, the construction of a narrative in Le Second Discours marks the passage from the primitive natural state to a cultural one through a series of beginnings. These beginnings appear logical if not always chronological. The same trajectory from savage state to social state is used as a paradigm to define the evolution of self using an ever-evolving tapestry of emblems. Through emblems of the natural appearing in lyric works, the self is defined and redefined as each emblem appears and then transcends its appearance in the framework of the lyric. For Rousseau, the lyric work suggests a readability through which the transparency of nature can be perceived as being one with the self. Defining emblem as a complex of symbols representing this transparency, we can then construe its appearance in lyric works in musical score, mise-en-scene, and libretti as an unseen language analogous to self-definition. In this dissertation, the lyric works Le Devin du village (1752) and Pygmalion (1770) will be the focus of our study because they reveal multiple means by which Rousseau uses the lyric to manifest the ideal of self. Whereas in Le Devin du village this is done emblematically via the treatment of recitatif, in Pygmalion it occurs via the attempt to embody, through the merger of music and language, the emblem of the self as one idealized unity.