The Enlightened Mind: Education in the Long Eighteenth Century

Amanda Strasik (Ed.)

by Dorothy Johnson (The University of Iowa), Amanda Strasik (Eastern Kentucky University), Rachel Harmeyer , Brigitte Weltman-Aron (The University of Florida), Franny Brock (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Madeline Sutherland-Meier (University of Texas at Austin), Karissa Bushman (Quinnipiac University)

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Through the exploration of an impressive range of textual and visual materials, this book adds to the growing scholarship on education during the long eighteenth century. The collection is distinguished by its diverse social-economical and material range. The inclusion of Spain and America gives it some geographical breath as well. Essays offer original and thought-provoking interpretations of well-known eighteenth-century philosophical treatises and artworks as well as introduces readers to lesser-known writers and artists. The book serves as a great resource for specialists in eighteenth-century culture, gender studies, and women’s history as well as for students interested in the period.

Dr. Christina K. Lindeman
Department of Art & Art History
University of South Alabama

This useful collection of essays addresses eighteenth-century culture, particularly as related to the visual arts and gender, through the lens of education in fresh and instructive ways. I suspect most readers will find in the essays a compelling mixture of familiarity and revelation: familiar themes, artists, and ideas are cast in a new light, expanded in interesting ways, animated alongside less well-known figures, and broadened to inform new questions. Originating from a session on education at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in 2021—chaired by Amanda Strasik and Karissa Bushman—the seven papers engage French, British, American, and Spanish topics, including anatomical training for artists in Paris, the context for better understanding Jeanne-Elisabeth Chaudet’s ‘Little Girl Teaching Her Dog to Read,’ the significance of embroidered pictures after designs by Angelica Kauffman, shifting prescriptions for teaching drawing to children, the educational utility of experience and being outside from Madame d’Epinay’s ‘Conversations d’Emilie,’ new conceptions of pedagogical ideals in Spain, and the impact of Goya’s education on his depictions of saints. At the risk of noting favorites, I am especially excited about the generative articles by Dorothy Johnson (on artistic anatomy), Rachel Harmeyer (on embroidery), and Franny Brock (on drawing instruction). Contributing both a chapter and an introduction framing the period’s educational ideals as shaped by philosophical and social developments, Amanda Strasik, as the volume’s editor, should be congratulated for bringing together a fascinating range of materials, underscoring how important the eighteenth century remains for understanding the world we live in today, including our own varied educational ideals—just as such questions now feel more relevant than ever.

Dr. Craig Hanson
Professor of Art History
Calvin University

“The Enlightened Mind” explores the complex landscape of education in eighteenth-century Europe and the United States, offering insight into how new ideas about learning not only permeated gender and class boundaries, but also influenced visual and material culture. The seven essays in this volume examine the wide-reaching effects of learning and its many environments. The book covers a broad range of countries and subjects, but the authors’ art historical and textual analyses encourage readers to draw thematic connections across each chapter.
Readers will discover how Enlightenment thought influenced traditional education at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in France, from its anatomy curriculum in the Ancien Régime (Johnson) to critical discourse at its Post-Revolutionary Salon exhibitions (Strasik, Brock). They also explore other spaces dedicated to knowledge, from girls’ schoolhouses in Britain and North America (Harmeyer) to religious education led by the Spanish clergy (Bushman, Sutherland-Meier) and domestic instruction led by tutors, mothers, and Nature itself (Brock, Weltman-Aron). “The Enlightened Mind” examines a remarkably broad range of objects, artworks, and texts designed to facilitate learning in the 18th century. The authors consider anatomically precise écorche, ABC primers, dolls, intricately embroidered pictures, as well as traditional paintings and sketches. They also analyze pedagogical texts – from educational treatises to drawing manuals – demonstrating that eighteenth-century discourse was filled with ideas that frequently complimented and contradicted one another.
A paradox of learning in the eighteenth century is that, despite the insistence of Enlightenment authors that knowledge should be accessible to all, education remained a privilege primarily enjoyed by middle- and upper-class white populations. Several authors call attention to these inequities, focusing especially on the ways in which women influenced spaces of learning as artists, authors, and educators. “The Enlightened Mind” ultimately reveals that educational discourse influenced many aspects of eighteenth-century life and culture. This book is important for its contributions to art history, education, and historical studies, and will be enjoyed by experts and newcomers alike.

Dr. Maura Gleeson,
Art Historian, Educator, and Independent Scholar

The rise of Enlightenment philosophical and scientific thought during the long eighteenth century in Europe and North America (c. 1688-1815) sparked artistic and political revolutions, reframed social, gender, and race relations, reshaped attitudes toward children and animals, and reconceptualized womanhood, marriage, and family life. The meaning of “education” at this time was wide-ranging and access to it was divided along lines of gender, class, and race. Learning happened in diverse environments under the tutelage of various teachers, ranging from bourgeois mothers at home, to Spanish clergy, to nature itself.

The contributors to this cross-disciplinary volume weave together methods in art history, gender studies, and literary analysis to reexamine “education” in different contexts during the Enlightenment era. They explore the implications of redesigned curricula, educational categorizations and spaces, pedagogical aids and games, the role of religion, and new prospects for visual artists, parents, children, and society at large. Collectively, the authors demonstrate how new learning opportunities transformed familial structures and the socio-political conditions of urban centers in France, Britain, the United States, and Spain. Expanded approaches to education also established new artistic practices and redefined women’s roles in the arts. This volume offers groundbreaking perspectives on education that will appeal to beginning and seasoned humanities scholars alike.

List of Figures
About the Editor
About the Contributors

The Enlightened Mind: Introduction
Amanda Strasik
Eastern Kentucky University

Chapter 1
Anatomy Lessons: Teaching Anatomy to Artists in Eighteenth-Century France
Dorothy Johnson
The University of Iowa

Chapter 2
Painting Paradoxes: Jeanne-Elisabeth Chaudet’s Little Girl Teaching her Dog to Read
Amanda Strasik
Eastern Kentucky University

Chapter 3
The Education of Daughters: Embroidered Pictures after Angelica Kauffman
Rachel Harmeyer
Rice University

Chapter 4
Madame de Genlis’s New Method and Teaching Drawing to Children in Eighteenth-Century France
Franny Brock
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapter 5
Outside for Girls in Madame d’Epinay’s Conversations d’Emilie
Brigitte Weltman-Aron
The University of Florida

Chapter 6
Reforming Education in Eighteenth-Century Spain: Padre Sarmiento’s Reflections on Teaching Young Children
Madeline Sutherland-Meier
The University of Texas at Austin

Chapter 7
Religious Education and the Lasting Effect on Goya’s Depictions of Saints
Karissa E. Bushman
Quinnipiac University


Amanda Strasik is an Associate Professor of Art History at Eastern Kentucky University. She received her Ph.D. in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art history from the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on representations of royalty, childhood and family relationships, and issues of gender identity in French art during the long eighteenth century. Strasik has received numerous grants and fellowships to conduct research in France at the Musée du Louvre, the National Museum of the History of Education in Rouen, the Palace of Versailles, as well as The Frick Collection in New York City. Strasik’s scholarly publications explore notions of female agency in eighteenth-century French genre painting and portraiture and have appeared in 'Women and French Studies', 'New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century', 'Art Inquiries', and, most recently, 'Eighteenth-Century Life' with Duke University Press.

eighteenth century, Enlightenment, French Revolution, Paris Salon, education, pedagogy, curriculum, female education, art instruction, Catholicism, girlhood, dolls, exercise, gardens, pets, femininity, female sexuality, childhood, childcare, motherhood, domesticity, écorché, drawing, draftsmanship, needlework, embroidery, genre painting, portraiture, religious painting, history painting, hierarchy of genres, accomplishment arts, amateur artists, women artists, art history, anatomy, medicine, religious studies, literary studies, European history, women and gender studies, French Salon, Denis Diderot, Encyclopédie, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, Edme Bouchardon, Jean Antoine Houdon, Roger de Piles, Jeanne-Elisabeth Chaudet, Angelica Kauffman, Caroline Williams, Lucy Coit Huntington, Maria Crowninshield, Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, Catherine Macaulay, The Iliad, Hector and Andromache, Madame de Genlis, Louise d’Epinay, José de Calasanz, Francisco de Goya, Martín Sarmiento

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Enlightened Mind: Education in the Long Eighteenth Century





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


23 B&W

Publication date

September 2022