The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

In late 1757, Rousseau wrote a series of moral letters on happiness to Mme Sophie d'Houdetot. He distinguished himself and his teaching from the empty babble and hypocrisy prevalent in "the century of philosophy and reason".

Every book tells us about the sovereign good, every philosopher shows it to us, and each teaches others the art of being happy, none has found it for himself. (Letter 2)

Rousseau represents philosophers as charlatans peddling happiness. Against the dubious authority of the philosopher, Sophie is cast as the wise enchantress, her feminine wisdom inspiring her tutor. This paper will explore the play between rationalism and illusion, seduction and authority in 18th century French discourses on happiness. Taking Rousseau's Lettres morales as a starting point, it will highlight a questioning and a gendering of reason implicit in the issue of credentials for teaching happiness.

On this site