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Isabelle de Charrière, pédagogue


In this paper I study Isabelle de Charrière’s vocation as an educationalist. This inclination which manifested itself at an early age and fully developed in her maturity is reflected in her correspondence and fictional work in both of which she reacts to the educational standard works of the Age of the Enlightenment. The subject will be discussed from two angles.
Firstly that of her personal upbringing which shaped her views on the position and conduct of a mentor: her education at home marked by an intimate relationship between governess and pupil, its autodidactic side with a strong emphasis on reading, and the role of the individual mentors in her life.
Particularly during the last two decades of the eighteenth century, Isabelle de Charrière, without losing interest in individual cases, broadened her field from the private to the public domain, and this is my second point. Themes like the education of a prince, of the aristocracy, but also of the people enabled her to re-examine a then very popular notion: education as the only way to achieve a responsible exercise of power by those in office. Isabelle de Charrière, however, does not compose a handbook for the education of a Prince, nor a blueprint for public education. She prefers to express her ideas on the subject in essays, political pamphlets, short stories, novels and in her private correspondence. From these emerges an outline of an « instituteur » in the sense of « the person in charge of the instruction of a Prince ». And she is only too happy to decline this term in the feminine.

SvD, July 2008

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Isabelle de Charrière > Madeleine van Strien-Chardonneau

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