Dr Louise Joy is the Crausaz Wordsworth Fellow 2019-20 and will be at CRASSH in Lent Term 2020.
Enlightenment Progressivism: Literature, Education and Freedom
Literature and education share in common certain perceived aims: transmission of knowledge, strengthening of understanding, acculturation, in some cases even empowerment. They also share certain structural forms: lessons, conversations, letters, confessions, narratives, examples, imitations, sometimes fantasies. Indeed, the authors of literary texts and the authors of educational treatises have often been the very same people who have seen their activities in both spheres as interrelated, not least since the power dynamics at play between the various parties (teacher and pupil, author and reader) are similarly susceptible to organisation along ideological lines.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, the traction of philosophical works including John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest (1694) reflected increased interest in what today is usually identified as progressiveeducation. Sceptical of traditional models of education founded on the student’s submission to the educator, a strand of educational thought began to emerge which emphasised the importance of the student’s voluntary participation in the educational process.
The project I will undertake during my term as Crausaz Wordsworth Fellow at CRASSH will explore the cultural turn towards – and the accompanying resistance against – progressivism, and it will examine the ramifications of philosophical debates about progressive education for literature and literary theory. Drawing on works by John Locke, Mary Astell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori, John Dewey, A.S. Neill, Jean Piaget, Bertrand Russell, Jerome Bruner, Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Martha Nussbaum, bel hooks and Paulo Freire, the project seeks to understand some of the complicated ways in which authors and readers since the Enlightenment have envisaged that literary texts might fulfil, fail, or refuse to fulfil, educational functions. In so doing, it reaches for a new conceptual vocabulary with which to analyse, theorise and contextualise some of the educational patterns that are discernible in literary theory and practice of the eighteenth century and beyond.
Louise Joy is a Fellow and Director of Studies in English and the current Vice-Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge. She completed her PhD and MPhil at the University of Cambridge, following an undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol. In 2013 she held a CRASSH Early Career Fellowship, and in 2015 was a visiting research fellow at Princeton. Her research is rooted in the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century. She is especially interested in early prose fiction, affect, and the history and philosophy of education. She has recently completed her second book, Eighteenth-Century Literary Affections (forthcoming 2020), which examines the mediating role played by the category of the affections in eighteenth-century contestations about reason and passion. Her first book, Literature’s Children: The Critical Child and the Art of Idealization (2019), brings literary theory into dialogue with the philosophy of education to provide a new account of the complex relations between literary aesthetics and literary didacticism at work in children’s literature. Alongside articles and essays on a range of topics relating to eighteenth-century literature, the emotions, women’s writing, and the history of children’s literature, she has also co-edited two volumes of essays: Poetry and Childhood (2010) and The Aesthetics of Children's Poetry: A Study of Children's Verse in English(2018). With Eugene Giddens and Zoe Jaques, she is currently co-editing the first two volumes of The Cambridge History of Children's Literature (forthcoming 2021).