Writing British Infanticide: Child-Murder, Gender, and Print, 1722-1859

Writing British Infanticide: Child-Murder, Gender, and Print, 1722-1859

Writing British Infanticide: Child-Murder, Gender, and Print, 1722-1859

Writing British Infanticide: Child-Murder, Gender, and Print, 1722-1859

Synopsis

"The essays brought together in this volume pose the question: How are we to understand the proliferation of writing about child-murder in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, or, more specifically, the overlap of an expanding print culture with the widely evident narration of this particular crime? Further, what are we to make of the recurrent and remarkably consistent representation of child-murder as the special province of unmarried, desperate women?" "Writing British Infanticide demonstrates the ways that narratives of child-murder in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain reflect, and in certain ways elicit, complexity if not outright paradox: it was a capital crime for which most of those indicted received no punishment; a crime definitive of barbarity for which juries and many observing writers urged sympathy; a crime in which the consideration of alleged perpetrators' motivations repeatedly founders in an inability to understand the economic and the affective as related. So doing, it argues both for the role of "writing British infanticide" in an emergent professionalism dependent upon print and for the special utility of a focus upon child-murder to the evaluation of the mutual constitution of gender and class." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Jennifer Thorn

Not a week goes by in the United States in which the national and local media do not report the discovery of an abandoned or murdered infant or child. the frequency of such stories poses a paradox: where on the one hand, their newsworthiness rests squarely upon their presumed deviance from unnewsworthy quotidian life, on the other hand, the stories' regularity would seem to render such presumptions strangely blind, if not hypocritical. What can we make of the visibility of stories of child-murder and the paradoxical invisibility of their omnipresence? Would the most appropriate response to this cognitive dissonance be the declaration of an epidemic that demands action to end it? What are we to make of the fact that, then and now, those most regularly presented as infanticidal or childmurdering are women? Drawing attention to perpetual crises in child-murder repeatedly "discovered" through the century-plus in which print most dramatically transformed culture, this book historicizes such questions the better to determine how to ask, if not answer, them today. Writing British Infanticide attends particularly closely to conscription of commentators on child-murder in, and to their benefit from, such telling, in order to come to terms with the seeming inevitability both of child-murder and of the consolidation of a limiting professionalism around it, and in order to imagine alternatives to both.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, British readers of quite various kinds of writings would have been hard put to avoid confronting child-murder in print. Broadsheets and ballads told tales of those accused of child-murder, mostly women, conjuring the deed itself and often the accused's dying words, sometimes with illustrations. Local and national newspapers carried reports of the bodies of infants found in public parks and streets and of the progress and outcome of trials. Pamphleteers wondered why so few of the accused were condemned to die in the face of what Thomas . . .

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