Felicity Baker (uk/au)
Felicity Baker has lived in London since 1969. At the University of Sydney she studied French, Italian and Latin. A scholarship took her from Sydney to Paris to start postgraduate work but having decided to focus on Rousseau, she transferred to Geneva, to benefit from the teaching and supervision of Jean Starobinski, whose openness to all the sciences humaines and whose historical and philosophical approach to all the arts of the Enlightenment and Revolutionary era remain a decisive inspiration. Her study of Rousseau’s philosophy of freedom and equality took her into his conception of a fundamental contract, not only the egalitarian social pact but also the spirit of safekeeping (le dépôt) in personal relations, including sexual love. Since 1986 her literary-critical readings have drawn on Claude Lefort’s political philosophy, and since 1996 on Maurice Godelier’s anthropology of the gift. After a first lectureship at the University of Pennsylvania (1967-69), her teaching career has been at University College London. She is now Reader Emeritus in French (UCL). She has published and lectured internationally on Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, La Nouvelle Héloïse, Emile, Social Contract and Confessions. Lorenzo Da Ponte became her second research topic after she noticed the presence of Rousseau’s thinking in the libretto for Don Giovanni, and again in the librettist’s memoirs; see ‘The figures of hell in the Don Giovanni libretto’, in Words about Mozart, ed. D. Link and J. Nagley (Boydell 2005), and ‘Lorenzo Da Ponte’s witticisms: the implication of Jewish identity in the Memorie’, in Italian Autobiography from Vico to Alfieri, ed. J. Lindon (supplement to The Italianist 17, 1997).