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Title: 'A living spectre of my father dead' : childhood, inheritance and memorialisation in Romantic-era British literature
Author: Turner, Beatrice
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 4032
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores how four authors of the late Romantic period in British literature ‘wrote back’ to their parent generation, contesting the Romantic-era constructions of childhood, parenthood and education into which they were written by their author-fathers. Hartley and Sara Coleridge, children of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and William Godwin Jr., children of the author and philosopher William Godwin, were all both ‘real’ and ‘literary’ children, implicated explicitly and indirectly in their father’s works. Their own writings testify to the consequences of this literary and biological parenting both through fiction and through ambivalent memorialisations of their fathers, and write back to the broader literary moment Godwin and Coleridge belong to. Despite the suggestive family relationships between them, these four authors have never been read together, if they have been read at all. This thesis not only draws out significant unacknowledged similarities in how they address childhood, family relationships and questions about nature and culture, but also make a contribution to the ongoing critical rehabilitation of Hartley and Sara, and proposes Godwin Jr. as a previously unrecognised but important early nineteenth-century novelist. It argues that the poetry, novels, children’s literature and memorial writing of all four evince telling anxieties about literary and genetic reproduction and inheritance. Criticism is increasingly attending to forms of Romantic legacy in the nineteenth century, to what these legacies might mean for current understandings of periodization and in particular to the ‘gap’ between 1820 and 1840. This thesis reads these four ‘children of Romanticism’ together as emblematic of an anxious generation who self-consciously interrogate their place in a literary lineage, seeking to destabilise rather than to crystallise the legacies they inherited. Doing so, the thesis concludes, allows for a valuable re-consideration of the relationship between what we think of as the Romantic and the Victorian periods.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available