Beans and Melons: Rousseau's Vegetable Garden

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This article focuses on a rarely studied aspect of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s oeuvre: his interest in gardening and more precisely vegetable gardening. Close attention to the text reveals that gardening is part of larger philosophical questions related to private property, luxury, space, education and theatre. Some of Rousseau’s most productive ideas are supported by references to gardening particularly the cultivation of ‘miserable’ beans and ‘prized’ melons. The two plants which were commonly grown in eighteenth-century gardens are at the centre of a philosophical parable in Emile. Beans and melons and their symbolical values fertilise larger questions Rousseau engaged with throughout his life. Although he favoured botany over horticulture, he used kitchen gardens as sites of philosophical experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Enclosure
  • Gardening
  • Luxury
  • Philosophy
  • Property
  • Rousseau
  • Vegetable


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