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The child of nature: The feral child and the state of nature

Newton, M.; (1996) The child of nature: The feral child and the state of nature. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis offers a reading of feral children in literature and culture from the seventeenth century until the first decades of the twentieth century. "Feral children" are taken to be individuals who have grown up, or spent some part of their childhood, in a condition of solitude. It also refers to infants who have been brought up, or temporarily nurtured, by animals. The chief concerns of the thesis are the problems that such children raised in defining what it was to be human. In order to elucidate this question, I interpret first-hand and fictional accounts of feral children within the context of ideas concerning language, political concepts of the state of nature, the idea of the soul, and images of race. The introduction explores some key historical areas of interest in the consideration of the feral child. The first chapter offers readings of the Romulus and Remus story, and anecdotes drawn from the writings of Sir Kenelm Digby and Bernard Connor. The second chapter examines the case of Peter the Wild Boy as discussed by Daniel Defoe, and the third chapter considers the Savage Girl of Champagne and her place in the writings of Lord Monboddo. The fourth chapter interprets the case of the Wild Boy of Aveyron in the context of Enlightenment thought on the origins of language and society. The fifth chapter is concerned with Kaspar Hauser, a boy allegedly brought up the isolation of a single windowless room. In a coda to this chapter, I suggest links between the romance elements of the Hauser story (he was considered by many to be an abandoned Prince) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes (New York: 1914). The sixth chapter explores the racial meanings of the feral child in Kipling's Jungle Books. The final chapter offers a conclusion to the ideas raised in the thesis, and suggests that in the period from the 1850's to the 1910's the discourses of "savagery" used to describe the feral child became increasingly applied to ordinary children.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The child of nature: The feral child and the state of nature
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Language and Literature

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