Paris: City of Light

A Negative Critique of the Salons


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




Figure 1.2 Engraving of Jean Jacques Rousseau, (Hoffding, 1).



Jean Jacques Rousseau, a brilliant French philosopher and writer of the 18th century, did not believe that exchanges of social and intellectual discourse could possibly take place in salons led by women. He argued that in the salons where women dominated, men would easily fall into the trap of trying to please the women. In such a setting, how could any serious conversation take place?


"Imagine what can be the temper of the soul of a man who is uniquely occupied with the important business of amusing women and who spends his entire life doing for them what they ought to do for us?" ~Rousseau (Goodman, 55)



Rousseau's Émile and His Views on Education for Women


In his writings, such as Émile, Rousseau put forth specific functions for French women of the era. However, in his eyes, the role of the salonnière did not fit into his plan for education.


In Émile, Rousseau's novelistic book on education, the author argued the need to develop a system of education that would allow only men to "function in an imperfect world while remaining true to his natural character, untainted by outside corruption (Morgenstern, 107).


In Rousseau's ideal system of education, women would have two roles to play in helping their husbands function in an "imperfect world." (Neither role, of course, included becoming a salonnière or obtaining an education.)

      • As wives, they serve to socialize and teach their husbands to function within society.
      • As mothers, they serve to protect their children from the horrors of the world and raise them with good ethics and virtues.


Let us now enter the Salons of the Enlightenment and meet the salonnière Madame Geoffrin. Here we will discover Geoffrin's salon, a noble institution that stimulated social and intellectual exchange during the Enlightenment.



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