Senior Research Fellow, 2014-2016
Educating for Freedom: Enlightenment Narratives of Autonomy, Gender, and Social Influence
Straddling the fields of eighteenth-century literature and culture, political theory, and the philosophy of education, Educating for Freedom: Enlightenment Narratives of Autonomy, Gender, and Social Influence explores the paradoxes and promises built into the modern liberal belief, originating in the Enlightenment, that freedom is something that can be taught. Tracing a century of writing on education—from John Locke and Mary Astell in the 1690s to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin in the 1790s—this project develops a new critical history of liberalism, one that directs attention away from the exigencies of contract theory to the normative and characterological assumptions underwriting liberalism. Highlighting the central role women and an emergent feminist movement played in the development of eighteenth-century narratives of education, Educating for Freedom is also less dismissive than some recent scholarship of Enlightenment claims regarding rational self-cultivation. Bringing eighteenth-century writers into dialogue with a broad grouping of recent poststructuralist, pragmatist, and liberal theorists of education and socialization (Foucault, Dewey, Mead, Rawls, Gutmann), it identifies as one key trajectory of modernity the desire to bring social reproduction to self-consciousness so that it permits internal dissent and social critique.