Rousseau behind Ruskin’s Mask: A Critique of Ruskin’s Views on Women and Their Education

  • Muhammad Qasim PhD English Literature Scholar, NUML, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Tahir Alam Awan English Language Instructor, Dhofar University, Sultanate Oman
  • Dr. Yasir Arafat Assistant Professor (English), NUML, Islamabad, Pakistan
Keywords: Women Education, Gender Discrimination, Bias, Feminist, Patriarchal


John Ruskin’s work Sesame and Lilies (1913) consists of his two lectures delivered in 1864 with the titles “Of Kings’ Treasuries” and “Of Queens’ Garden”. In these lectures, he defines manhood and womanhood simultaneously by using crafted words and flattering tone. Although he seems to stand with the women and calls them queens in men’s kingdoms, yet he trickily draws lines between men and women and offers two types of education for both sexes. He was successful in befooling the Victorian women and early feminists but later feminists hated and condemned his work because of its anti-feminist approach. This research evaluates Ruskin’s views on women and their education by using the yardstick of Rousseau’s concepts expressed in his famous work Emile, or on Education (1979). This analysis is interesting because Rousseau was clear and bold anti-feminist who advocated different education for the imaginary mistress of Emile, Sophie. According to him, Sophie, the wife of Emile, ought to be educated to be a good wife and good mother but different from men. This study finds that there was, in fact, Rousseau behind Ruskin’s mask when he was talking of women and their education in a flattering and seductive tone. So, it unmasks Ruskin’s patriarchal views regarding women. This analysis is significant because it alerts and warns women to be aware of people like Ruskin who try to damage their cause in disguise of a well-wisher. Moreover, this study may provoke further research in this field focusing on the comparison of different works of prose.