This article suggests that we might find a new way to address two stubborn questions regarding Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions through a single shift in perspective. These two questions are: What can we make of the antipathy that readers often feel toward this text, in response to the narrator's demand for total empathetic identification? And, how can we draw out the text's queer potential? Versions of these two questions have been asked many times by critics, but always in the register of unveiling, unmasking, exposing. What if, rather than deconstructing or diagnosing, we take an explicitly reparative position toward the paranoia that the text models, and toward the queer encounters it records? This approach involves seeking empathy away from where the text directs us, giving Rousseau a version of what he wants while challenging his tyrannical program that sets out how we should read and relate. Far from attempting to restore to the narrator the coherence or wholeness that myriad suspicious reads have undermined, this reparative reading counsels approaching the text as fragmentary archive. In the process, early modern queer identities, surface versus depth, and the Confessions as foundational text for modern autobiography—and the modern self—are all reconsidered.

You do not currently have access to this content.