Image of the Noble Savage in Literature Criticism: Rousseau And The French Enlightenment's View Of The Noble Savage - Essay

Jerry Combee and Martin Plax (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Combee, Jerry, and Martin Plax. “Rousseau's Noble Savage and European Self-Consciousness.” Modern Age 17 (spring 1973): 173-82.

[In the following essay, Combee and Plax examines Rousseau's use of the Noble Savage as a vehicle to criticize European culture.]


Critical interpretations of Rousseau have commonly characterized him as either a revolutionary or a conservative romantic.1 The first interpretation, linking him with the French revolution, has generally seen him as a contributor to the development of a revolutionary consciousness and specifically as having been:

looked upon by...

(The entire section is 5694 words.)

Michelle Buchanan (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Buchanan, Michelle. “Savages, Noble and Otherwise, and the French Enlightenment.” Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 15 (1986): 97-109.

[In the following essay, Buchanan claims that the invention and idea of the Noble Savage became a notable element of literature, fiction, and drama in eighteenth century France because the belief was important in the thought of the French Enlightenment.]

The notion of the French philosophes' humanistic view of the savage continues to find wide acceptance, along with the belief in the capital role played by Montaigne and Rousseau in the development and concretization of the concept of the Noble Savage. Both commonplaces,...

(The entire section is 5473 words.)

Stelio Cro (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Cro, Stelia. “The Noble Savage: Allegory of Freedom.” In The Noble Savage: Allegory of Freedom, pp. 131-57. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990.

[In the following essay, Cro argues that, to Rousseau, the idea of the Noble Savage spoke to the principles of physical and moral freedom.]


By the middle of the eighteenth century the exoticism of the voyagers, who for over two centuries had proclaimed the natural goodness of the savages of America and the islands of the south seas, not only had inspired authors to write idealized accounts of the discovery and conquest of the New World, such as Marmontel's...

(The entire section is 13367 words.)

Ter Ellingson (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellingson, Ter. Introduction to The Myth of the Noble Savage, pp. 1-8. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

[In the following essay, Ellingson questions the attribution of the idea of the Noble Savage to Rousseau, arguing that the concept is an ongoing tradition and should not be attributed to any one individual.]


More than two centuries after his death, Jean-Jacques Rousseau is still widely cited as the inventor of the “Noble Savage”—a mythic personification of natural goodness by a romantic glorification of savage life—projected in the very essay (Rousseau 1755a) in...

(The entire section is 3721 words.)