Harvard University: Sex, Freedom and Education in Rousseau’s Emile

Illustration from Emile

The Program on Constitutional Government: “Sophie Isn’t Oppressed: Sex, Freedom and Education in Rousseau’s Emile”


The Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard, a JMC partner program, hosted JMC fellow Rita Koganzon for a lecture on Rousseau’s views of women in Emile.

Book V of Emile, which describes the education of women, has largely been read as both Rousseau’s most complete and straightforward statement about the nature and capacities of women, and as a misogynistic statement at that. But if we recall that Emile is at least in part a response to Locke’s book on education, and we look closely at Rousseau’s recommendations for the education of girls, we discover that they are uncannily similar to Locke’s proposed curriculum for boys. This lecture re-examines the relationship between Books I and V and the rest of Emile, and argues that Sophie represents both the practical strengths and philosophical weaknesses of Lockean pedagogy, while Emile’s education is a philosophical correction to Lockean pedagogy that is, ultimately, impracticable.

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Harvard University



Rita KoganzonRita Koganzon is the Associate Director of the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy, a JMC partner program, and Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the themes of education, childhood, authority, and the family in contemporary and historical political thought. She examines how children are born incapable of full citizenship, and so require both a justification for their subordination to adults and an education that will prepare them for citizenship. These requirements are especially difficult for liberal democracies, for whom the exercise of authority is fundamentally at odds with the natural liberty and equality of citizens on which the state is grounded. Professor Koganzon’s work aims to recover the ways that earlier writers have addressed the problem of childhood in political thought, education, literature, and the law.

Professor Koganzon is a JMC fellow.

Learn more about Rita Koganzon >>



The Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University was founded in 1985 by Harvey Mansfield and William Kristol, and has been guided since then by Mansfield and R. Shep Melnick of Boston College. The Program promotes the study of the U.S. Constitution and its principles, combining the fields of political theory and American government. It brings visiting professors to Harvard, invites guest speakers, and supports postdoctoral fellowships. The Program also seeks to improve the access of Harvard students to political debate by ensuring that the principle of diversity is not confined to favored classes of Americans, but extended to political opinion, since it is the interest of all that both sides be heard.

Learn more about the Program on Constitutional Government >>



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