Social Worlds of Male and Female Children in the Nineteenth Century French Educational System Youth, Rituals and Elites

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This volume conducts an historical comparative investigation of the elite school system for boys (lycées - secondary educational system) and girls (religious boarding schools) in 19th century France. An elaborated model of the total institution is used to analyze the educational organizations in which children were educated. The study also uses literary texts such as novels and short stories, diaries, memoirs, and (fictionalized) autobiographies to describe and compare the personal lives, social worlds, and structures of boys and girls in these two types of institutions. A theory of structural ritualization is employed to explain how these groups were influenced by the institutional milieus they were nested within. Underlying this study is the fundamental assumption that literature and sociological concepts can be used together to better understand social historical processes and structures.


"This original and stimulating book illuminates on many fronts – theoretical, methodological, historical, and substantive. First, the question of how social structure gets reproduced, even when the individuals or groups involved in its reproduction do not like or support the existing social structure. These authors show the importance of repetitive practices, routines, and rituals for shaping the processes and forms that individuals and groups create in their own realms. Their work also advances the theory of total institutions. . . by including organizational features of an institution as well as characteristics of residents and relationships with the wider society. . . . The authors also develop and apply a fascinating new method of studying difficult to reach social phenomenon, namely the tool of literary ethnography. As they note, this method is useful for studying more informal, private, and hidden social practices. . . . while the authors' theoretical and methodological contributions are useful for anyone trying to study and understand the social world, the historical contributions of their work should be of particular interest to those studying the history of education, the comparative study of educational institutions, or the rise of the modern state and the forms of education that were used. . . . Particularly notable is the way they compare the educational systems for young men and young women. Historical studies of female education are very rare. . . . there is much of relevance for designers of contemporary educational programs. This is a book that will stimulate and inform readers with many interests and backgrounds." – Caroline Hodges Persell, New York University

"This book weaves together formal sociological theory and the analysis of literary texts, two traditions and styles that are generally considered distinctly different, if not completely opposite. The result is a highly original exploration of elite schooling that is both analytical and engaging." – Jane Sell "By systematically comparing the elite male education institutions to their female counterparts, this study persuasively reveals significant differences in the extent to which the male and female elite schools were total institutions. . . . this imaginative study significantly contributes to the sociological literature. . . . well suited for students in sociology courses and students of education, and French history and culture." – Cheryl B. Leggon

Table of Contents

Table of contents:


1.Elite Schooling and the world of Youth in France: Introduction to the Study

2.The Theory of Structural Ritualization

3.Literary Ethnography and Social Historical Analysis

4.The male Elite Educational system as a total Institution

5.The Personal and Social World of Male Youth

6.The Female Elite Educational system as a total Institution

7.The Personal and Social World of Female Youth

8.Conclusion: Comparative Analysis of School Systems and Youth Societies

References; Index

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