Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic

Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic

Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic

Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic

Synopsis

In Romanticism, Maternity, and the Body Politic, Julie Kipp examines Romantic writers' treatments of motherhood and maternal bodies in the context of the legal, medical, educational and socioeconomic debates about motherhood so popular during the period. She argues that these discussions turned the physical processes associated with mothering into matters of national importance. The privately shared space signified by the womb or the maternal breast were made public by the widespread interest in the workings of the maternal body. These private spaces evidenced for writers of the period the radical exposure of mother and child to one another - for good or ill. Kipp's primary concern is to underline the ways that writers used representations of mother-child bonds as ways of naturalizing, endorsing and critiquing Enlightenment constructions of interpersonal and intercultural relations. This fascinating literary and cultural study will appeal to all scholars of Romanticism.

Excerpt

[I]n the case of our children we are responsible for the exercise of
acknowledged power: a power wide in its extent, indefinite in its
effects, and inestimable in its importance.

Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education

Nature has given women so much power, that law has wisely given
them little.

Samuel Johnson, “Letter to Dr. Taylor” (18 August 1763)

This book deals with the trials and errors of Romantic-period mothers, the politicizing of maternal bodies and the maternalizing of political bodies, and the authoring of mothers and the mothering of texts. in the chapters to follow, I identify abstract theories and material practices associated with motherhood during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and consider especially ways these were negotiated discursively by writers attempting to make legible the seemingly self-disclosing, but often highly mysterious maternal body. My primary concern is to trace ways that writers deployed representations of mother–child bonds as a means to naturalize various constructions of interpersonal and intercultural relations, but I also want to consider some of the fault lines between writing motherhood and reading the bodies of mothers, between books about birth and the birthing of books. I view Romantic writers’ treatments of motherhood and maternal bodies especially through the lens of the legal, medical, educational, and socioeconomic debates about motherhood so popular during the period, discussions that rendered the physical processes associated with mothering matters of national importance. Widespread interest in the workings of the maternal body tended to make public the privately shared space signified by the womb or the maternal breast, both of which evidenced for writers of the period the radical exposure of mother and child to one another – for both good and ill. It is not my intention, then, to lay claim to any definition of motherhood or to suggest that . . .

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