Emile, ou de l'Education
Emile, or on Education
Approximately 500 pages
Well, that was painful. I guess I had it coming though since I had a really good streak of books lately. I have been head over heels in love with the Enlightenment thinkers and I also read Jane Eyre and The Elegance of a Hedgehog which are both absolutely incredible and inspiring. Yeah, I had it coming.
I want to start by saying that I really liked this book at first. I had raved about Rousseau in earlier posts and the book's premise sounded interesting enough. This book is just a series of essays written by Rousseau about how he educated his imaginary pupil, Emile, in each stage of his life. I at one point even entertained delirious thoughts about using this book as a guide for educating my own children if I ever became a mother. Then everything went to hell.
First of all, this book wasn't written for women. Rousseau treated the reader like a future father so I felt like an outsider. I imagine I would have a similar feeling if I ever went to a Superbowl party. Not really in on the jokes and completely bored. Also, he kept yelling at me. Throughout the novel, he called the reader womanly, hardened, and cruel. Finally, he treated Emile as if he was his life work; I don't think he ever said he loved him. Rousseau kept bragging about how much of Emile he controlled and how he was in charge of every aspect of Emile's life (even his wife). What a nightmare of a father-in-law he would be.
Don't even get me started on the last book of the novel, "Sophie." This is where he talks about how women should be educated. So I knew going into this that it was going to be offensive. This was written in the 1760s and Rousseau was sexist. I get it. But in spite of myself, I got upset. Insult after insult for about a hundred pages wears people down.
I thought Rousseau and I were buddies; I feel so betrayed. He is officially out of the running for my favorite Enlightenment thinker; vote on yours at the top of the blog!
This novel was publicly burned in 1762 for the way it discussed religion.
One idea that I do agree with is to let your child pick their own religion when they are at "the age of reason" (which Rousseau said could never be reached by women; ha).
Emile was the inspiration of the educational system during the French Revolution.
Rousseau considered this his best work.
I am happy to see some new followers.:)