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Monstrous Motherhood

Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Ideology of Domesticity

Marilyn Francus

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Spectral and monstrous mothers populate the cultural and literary landscape of the eighteenth century, overturning scholarly assumptions about this being an era of ideal motherhood.

Although credited with the rise of domesticity, eighteenth-century British culture singularly lacked narratives of good mothers, ostensibly the most domestic of females. With startling frequency, the best mother was absent, disembodied, voiceless, or dead. British culture told tales almost exclusively of wicked, surrogate, or spectral mothers—revealing the defects of domestic ideology, the cultural fascination with…

Spectral and monstrous mothers populate the cultural and literary landscape of the eighteenth century, overturning scholarly assumptions about this being an era of ideal motherhood.

Although credited with the rise of domesticity, eighteenth-century British culture singularly lacked narratives of good mothers, ostensibly the most domestic of females. With startling frequency, the best mother was absent, disembodied, voiceless, or dead. British culture told tales almost exclusively of wicked, surrogate, or spectral mothers—revealing the defects of domestic ideology, the cultural fascination with standards and deviance, and the desire to police maternal behaviors.

Monstrous Motherhood analyzes eighteenth-century motherhood in light of the inconsistencies among domestic ideology, narrative, and historical practice. If domesticity was so important, why is the good mother’s story absent or peripheral? What do the available maternal narratives suggest about domestic ideology and the expectations and enactment of motherhood? By focusing on literary and historical mothers in novels, plays, poems, diaries, conduct manuals, contemporary court cases, realist fiction, fairy tales, satire, and romance, Marilyn Francus reclaims silenced maternal voices and perspectives. She exposes the mechanisms of maternal marginalization and spectralization in eighteenth-century culture and revises the domesticity thesis.

Monstrous Motherhood will compel scholars in eighteenth-century studies, women’s studies, family history, and cultural studies to reevaluate a foundational assumption that has driven much of the discourse in their fields.

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Monstrous Motherhood

Marilyn Francus

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Reviews

Reviews

The virtues of this study are too many to recite here. Francus's work is a pleasure to read; it is thoroughly researched and very carefully planned... Monstrous Motherhood is a significant study with a great deal to add to our understanding of the representation of mothers in the literature and culture of the long eighteenth century.

In short, Francus' book is an important insight into a complex topic. It uncovers fascinating material drawn from both historical and literary sources, delivering an invaluable and compelling study.

One doesn’t need to be an expert on eighteenth-century literature to appreciate the extent of Marilyn Francus’s study.

With her deft interweaving of the literary and historical and expansive overview of a broad number of complex texts, Marilyn Francus develops, through her nuanced readings, our understanding of imperatives and anxieties surrounding the domestic ideal in eighteenth-century Britain. Her book is an invaluable addition to women's studies as well as literature and culture of the eighteenth century.

Francus complicates discourses on domesticity prevalent in literary and historical contexts by analyzing texts in various genres written by both male and female authors. In so doing, she rightly asks us to rethink what critics and theorists have called "domestic ideology."

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
312
ISBN
9781421407371
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Ideology of Domesticity Reexamined
1. Mothers of the Apocalypse: Maternal Allegory and Myth in Swift and Pope
2. All Too Human: Maternal Monstrosity and Hester Thrale
3

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Ideology of Domesticity Reexamined
1. Mothers of the Apocalypse: Maternal Allegory and Myth in Swift and Pope
2. All Too Human: Maternal Monstrosity and Hester Thrale
3. Suffer the Little Children? The Infanticidal Motherin Literature
4. Until Proven Innocent: Infanticide in the Public Record and in Court
5. Be Monstrous or Be Marginal: Stepmothers in Literature
6. Pin the Tale on the Stepmother: Elizabeth Allen and the Burneys
7. But She's Not There: The Rise of theSpectral Mother
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Marilyn Francus
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Marilyn Francus

Marilyn Francus is an associate professor of English at West Virginia University. She is author of The Converting Imagination: Linguistic Theory and Swift’s Satiric Prose and editor of the Burney Journal.
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