Literary Praxis and Pedagogic Philosophy in British Educative Fiction after Rousseau
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Melvill, O. (2020). Literary Praxis and Pedagogic Philosophy in British Educative Fiction after Rousseau (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.40758
Finding its origin in the educational philosophy forwarded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 1760s, this thesis examines how the experimental system of education proposed in Emile or On Education (1762) was received and adapted in the educative writing of Maria Edgeworth, Mary Hays and William Godwin. Focusing primarily on Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801), Hays’s Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1798), and Godwin’s Fleetwood (1805), this thesis examines how Rousseau’s educational model was adapted towards the end of the 1790s as a philosophy of literary reception that was grounded in active, practical experimentation and literary praxis. Drawing a line between didacticism and education, Rousseau opened up the possibility for an educational philosophy that shifted the focus away from didactic pedagogy towards an understanding of education that focused on the act of reception rather than the imparting of ideas. While many critics have, like Godwin, focused on the implications that this shift in perspective has had for the relationship between the teacher and pupil, less apparent is how Rousseau’s experiential educational model was revised towards the end of the eighteenth century in ways that reframed the role that literature could play in education. What Maria Edgeworth, Mary Hays and William Godwin recognise in the 1790s is that the interaction between the reader and the novel has the potential to function in a fundamentally similar fashion to the relationship Rousseau theorises in Emile between his student and the physical world. Focusing on how each of these writers envisions the act of reading, this thesis demonstrates how, within the Rousseauvean educational framework, reading is reconstituted by Edgeworth, Hays and Godwin as a practical, empirically justifiable educational act. Through an examination of this experiential approach to literary reception, this thesis explores how the growing emphasis on the practical nature of the interaction between readers and literary texts functions to involve readers in the educational process. Through this conception of active readerly reception, works like Belinda, Memoirs of Emma Courtney and Fleetwood open up the possibility for a form of auto-education that, I argue, enables a movement towards a democratisation of education that could be situated outside of the bounds of institutionalised educational systems.
Eighteenth-Century Literature, Rousseau, Philosophy of Education, Educative Fiction, Literary Praxis, Pedagogic Philosophy, Mary Hays, Maria Edgeworth, William Godwin
This thesis would not have been possible without the generous financial support that I received from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, the Cambridge International Trust and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.40758
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