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Open SecretsLiterature, Education, and Authority from J-J. Rousseau to J. M. Coetzee$
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Michael Bell

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199208098

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208098.001.0001

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The Comedy of Educational Errors

The Comedy of Educational Errors

(p.53) 2 The Comedy of Educational Errors
Open Secrets

Michael Bell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers two novels written in the wake of Rousseau which, although they are not consciously answering him, subject the theme of pedagogical authority to an almost fatal irony. Moreover, both are highly self-conscious as fictions and their overt narrative manipulations stand in contrast to more naïve attempts by central characters within the text to exercise pedagogical authority. While Walter Shandy's misbegotten attempts to form his son are the mainspring of the action, Tristram Shandy is as much a realisation of the Tristra-paedia as a riposte to it. In Wieland, the failures of Hippias the Sophist to convert Agathon are darkly echoed in Plato's archetypal failure with Dionys, the young tyrant of Syracuse. In their chastening sense of pedagogical limitation both books celebrate a private sphere refuged from public history, a private sphere embodied in the book itself.

Keywords:   Tristram Shandy, History of Agathon, Plato, Walter Shandy, Rosseau

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