Loughborough University

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Attitudes to childhood in eighteenth-century writings

posted on 2010-12-06, 11:19 authored by Stella Rosemary Brooks
This thesis explores attitudes towards childhood in the eighteenth century, by examining the ways childhood is represented in texts from a range of genres. The study begins with a brief survey of works produced before the eighteenth century, which have a bearing on those in the main part of the thesis, Those that follow were produced at various times throughout the century. The poetry is subjected to close formal analysis; all texts are examined in the light of the circumstances of their production. The work is divided into five parts, which are in turn subdivided into chapters, most of which deal with individual authors or works. The main divisions group together pre-eighteenth-century works; those with a moralising tendency, arising from religious beliefs; secular works that embody attitudes towards the education and care of children; works that look back regretfully to childhood; and those that regard childhood as holding a key to adult life. In most of these writings, childhood is seen only as a time of preparation for adulthood; education is taken to be important, but relatively little attention is paid to the immediate needs and interests of the child. When childhood is valued, it is seen either as a happy, but deluded state, or as worthy of retrieval by the adult. Attitudes are diverse, and can be related to the socioeconomic, circumstances of those who hold them. There seems to have been little significant change through the century. By examining a variety of written genres across the entire century, the thesis identifies a wider range of attitudes than is usually evident in more narrowly-based studies. Common elements are identified in different types of text, and at different periods. The extent to which attitudes changed over the period can be assessed, The formal analysis of texts provides evidence of a different order from that identified by historians and sociologists.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


© Stella Rosemary Brooks

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University. If you are the author of this thesis and would like to make it openly available in the Institutional Repository please contact: repository@lboro.ac.uk

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  • en

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