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“Source de lumières & de vertus”

Rethinking Éducation, Instruction, and the Political Pedagogy of the French Revolution

Adrian O'Connor

This article examines the political pedagogy of the French Revolution and, with that, the revolutionaries' engagement with issues of political community and communication. It proposes that while the distinction between éducation and instruction, or between the development of moral and civic character, on the one hand, and the cultivation of particular skills, on the other, was prominent in eighteenth-century pedagogy and has been influential in our understanding of the Revolution, that same distinction has obscured essential elements of the revolutionaries' pedagogical and political agendas. Attention to the proposals and practices of revolutionary pedagogy, including the revolutionary festivals, reveals that what the revolutionaries called “public instruction” was a dynamic synthesis of civic and technical training, a synthesis that was intended not to foster unquestioning obedience or the obliteration of differences among citizens, but to promote civic communication in ways that would make a participatory politics possible.

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Nature, Nurture, and the Social Order

Imagining Lessons and Lives for Women in Ancien Régime France

Adrian O'Connor

Focusing on the work of Choderlos de Laclos, Riballier, Mme d'Épinay, and Mme de Genlis, this article examines the ways in which, during the 1770s and 1780s, women's education and women's social identity were imagined as two related questions. Both questions were shaped by the perceived dictates of nature, tradition, and necessity, yet each was open to debate and re-imagination. In the works of these four writers, we will see not only considerable ambivalence regarding women's social and familial identities, but also a rift between understandings of those identities based on nature and understandings based on social utility or tradition. Moreover, we will see that along with that ambivalence and that discursive rift came a tension between women's importance as wives and mothers, on the one hand, and their autonomy as selves, on the other.