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    Bad Mothers in Eighteenth-Century Fiction


    O'Donnell, Siobhan (2012) Bad Mothers in Eighteenth-Century Fiction. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Abstract

    Focusing on texts written during the eighteenth century, and charting the connections between literary novels and contemporary discourse, this dissertation examines the role of the mother within this literature. I argue that contemporary fictional writers wrote important texts that reflect the wider historical conditions of the family, as well as the social, cultural and religious background of this period. Some of the narratives reflect public anxiety over the ever-increasing commercialization of England during the eighteenth century. Within family life, political, literary and philosophical hypotheses were compelled to adjust in a continuously changing society. Initially, the historical and ideological framework is set where the problems faced by the characters examined subsequently develop. The common theme within the novels is the female characters‘ shared experience as mothers and daughters. The narratives of these authors functioned as a means of critiquing the lack of maternal duty. With the exception of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau novel, the texts I discuss are written by English authors and centre on maternal affection or the lack thereof. The thesis continues by examining Daniel Defoe‘s Moll Flanders and Roxana. Both these novels reflect the conditions of poor and destitute mothers in eighteenth-century society, who are precariously positioned regarding their children. Eliza Haywood‘s Anti-Pamela, the antidote to Pamela, concentrates on the conduct of a mother who was a defective role model for her daughter. The thesis moves on to examine the novels of Samuel Richardson: Pamela I and II, Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, novels that concentrate on the dynamics within various families with the emphasis placed on the role and behaviour of the mother. Richardson‘s women have pre-ordained roles in the society in which some of the female characters embody discourses of ideal motherhood. The following chapter analyses Jean-Jacques Rousseau‘s Émile and Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse with his didactic tone and his appeals to mothers. The thesis concentrates on the authors‘ perspective and contemporary opinions of motherhood. The novels used within this study all differ in characters and outcome.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: bad mothers; eighteenth-century fiction; fiction;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies
    Item ID: 5680
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 16:28
    URI:

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