Cocks on Dunghills-Wollstonecraft and gouges on the women's revolution

Limited Access
This item is unavailable until:
2023-09-26
Date
2022-09-26
Editor(s)
Advisor
Supervisor
Co-Advisor
Co-Supervisor
Instructor
Source Title
SATS
Print ISSN
1600-1974
Electronic ISSN
1869-7577
Publisher
De Gruyter Open Ltd
Volume
23
Issue
2
Pages
135 - 152
Language
English
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Series
Abstract

While many historians and philosophers have sought to understand the 'failure' of the French Revolution to thrive and to avoid senseless violence, very few have referred to the works of two women philosophers who diagnosed the problems as they were happening. This essay looks at how Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges theorised the new tyranny that grew out of the French Revolution, that of 'petty tyrants' who found themselves like 'cocks on a dunghill' able to wield a new power over those less fortunate than themselves. Both offer diagnoses and prognoses that revolve around education. Wollstonecraft argues that a revolution that is not backed by a previous education of the people is bound to result in chaos and violence. Such education, however, must be slow, and it necessitates the reform of the institutions that most shape the public's character. A revolution, perforce, is fast, and it often takes several years, or even generations before the spirit of the reforms finds itself implemented into new institutions. Olympe de Gouges shares Wollstonecraft's worry and she observes that the men who were once dominated quickly become tyrants themselves unless their moral character is already virtuous. But the state of being dominated leaves little room for virtue; hence, newly minted citizens need to be educated in order not to replicate the reign of tyranny onto other. Gouges suggests that the answer to the difficulty she and Wollstonecraft highlighted was to educate the people where they could be found: on the streets, or, where they could easily and willingly be gathered: in theatres. By helping organise revolutionary festivals, highlighting the ways in which citizens could be virtuous, and writing plays to awaken their virtue, and proposing a reform of the theatre, so that the production of such plays would be possible, Gouges offered a plan for the civic education of French citizens in the immediate aftermaths of the Revolution. Unfortunately, the chaos she and Wollstonecraft had sought to remedy, led by the cocks or petty tyrants, ensured that they were unable to see through their plans, with Wollstonecraft having to leave Paris and Gouges being sent to the guillotine. © 2022 the author(s), published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston.

Course
Other identifiers
Book Title
Citation
Published Version (Please cite this version)