Fathers, sons, and monsters: Rousseau, Blake, and Mary Shelley
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Through their reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Blake, and Mary Shelley arrive at a similar formula for their respective texts: the mismanagement, neglect, and eventual abandonment of children by their fathers catalyses the development of monstrous progeny in Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818/31), Blake’s Tiriel (1789), The Book of Urizen (1794), and The Four Zoas (1795–1804). In particular, both Blake and Shelley pick up on Rousseau’s concerns about the mishandling of children’s bodies as part of contemporary nursing practices in Émile, as well as the way in which the vision of a self-led educational programme is continually undermined by the fear of pedagogical mismanagement. While Blake and Shelley are rarely brought together in critical discussions, this paper, by looking specifically at the physical and psychological formation of children within the context of father–son relationships, hopes to provide an analytical key which will unlock the way both Romantic writers incorporated personal, pedagogical, and philosophical material from Rousseau in their family-orientated texts.
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