Abstract

What are the historical origins of aesthetic education? One of these comes from the eighteenth century. This became an important theme in a novel of the time. In the midst of Julie and those who were close to her, Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his epistolary novel, Julie, or the New Heloise: Letters of Two Lovers who Live in a small Town at the Foot of the Alps (1761), develops a philosophical position he labels "the epicureanism of reason," as opposed to an epicureanism of the senses whose advocates he calls "vulgar epicureans." The hallmarks of his epicureanism are abstainment, moderation, and simplicity. These three features are examined and abstainment is found to be the most controversial in regard to taste. Rousseau attacks the food practices of the vulgar epicureans–those who practiced the urban, Parisian cuisine and he applauds the country life and its cuisine. Widely read at the time, the novel made European culture self-conscious and forced it to pay attention to aspects of living that had gone unnoticed or underappreciated, including taste and food. Through the voices of Julie and her tutor turned lover, Saint Preux, they provide a lively critique of French (and Swiss) society and its values.

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