Re-Presenting Achilles: Rousseau's Illustrative Education in Emile

Posted: 29 Mar 2010

See all articles by John T. Scott

John T. Scott

University of California, Davis


The primary object of Rousseau's educational project in Emile is the reader. Rousseau educates his reader by forcing a comparison between the children we know and his pupil Emile. One specific device Rousseau uses in this vein is the illustrations of the work. I analyze the first two engravings to Emile that feature Achilles. I argue that he nonetheless ultimately subverts the relationship between classical authority and his text by establishing a tension between the subject of the engravings, Achilles, and the subject of his book, his imaginary pupil, Emile. Comparing the two subjects leads the reader to question the classical understanding of human virtue and education represented by Achilles and replaces it with a new understanding. Rousseau's re-presentation of Achilles in the engravings to Emile suggests the novelty of Rousseau's project and indicates how he intends both text and illustration to educate the reader. My analysis of the engravings therefore illuminates their role in the work and also contributes to the understanding of the argument and structure of the work itself.

Suggested Citation

Scott, John T., Re-Presenting Achilles: Rousseau's Illustrative Education in Emile. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

John T. Scott (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis ( email )

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