Angels and absences: child deaths in the nineteenth century by Laurence Lerner

By Laurence Lerner

What's the distinction among private and non-private feeling, and the way some distance do we deduce previous emotions from the phrases which have been left us? Why do baby deaths determine so frequently and so prominently within the literature of the 19th century, and the way used to be the topic of the loss of life of a kid used to elicit such poignant responses within the readers of that period? during this attention-grabbing new booklet, Laurence Lerner vividly contrasts the contempt with which 20th- century feedback so usually dismisses such works as mere sentimentality with the keenness and tears of nineteenth-century contemporaries.Drawing examples from either actual and literary deaths, Lerner delves into the writings of famous authors similar to Dickens, Coleridge, Shelley, Flaubert, Mann, Huxley, and Hesse, in addition to lesser identified writers like Felicia Hemans and Lydia Sigourney. within the approach, he synthesizes clean rules concerning the thorny matters of sentimentality, aesthetic judgment, and the functionality of faith in literature.Lerner's forthright and evocative prose type is agreeable interpreting, and he excels in teasing out the ethical implications and the psychosocial entanglements of his selected narrative and lyrical texts. this can be a ebook that may remove darkness from an immense element of the background of non-public lifestyles. it's going to have large software for these drawn to the background, sociology, and literature of the 19th century.

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Extra info for Angels and absences: child deaths in the nineteenth century

Sample text

If we cannot believe the newspapers about the Prince Regent, why, it seems natural to ask, should we believe them about Leopold? The cynical answer is that we know less about Leopold and therefore have less reason to question them; but there are other reasons: that the motive to cover up is much less powerful in his case, since he was not the sovereign (as the Prince was in fact and would soon be in name); that the much fuller descriptions of his behaviour have not the blandness of the lies about the Prince Regent; and also that since he was a foreigner the press might feel less need to conform him to a stereotype, might even feel some satisfaction in reporting his slightly un-English feelings.

Next to this winsome narrative, I now place a sophisticated piece of theory. Paul Ricoeur's distinction between the semiotic and the semantic is useful here. When a text is analyzed as a self-contained unit, as it is by structuralism, its elements are understood only in relation to one another, that is, as "a system of signs defined by their differences alone": this is the semiotic. " The world we inhabit, for Ricoeur, is not locked up in a prison house of language. 10 In the texts of Catherine Tait and Elizabeth Prentiss, we find two emotions, faith and grief.

She became very silent, and did not answer me, but her mind seemed satisfied. Though her role as a clergyman's wife may have laid on her an especial duty of faith, and of being seen to have faith, there is no reason to doubt the genuineness of these assertions. Such language, which seems clearly to spring from her own beliefs, and not to be there merely to comfort the children, recurs constantly in Victorian accounts of child death. Later we shall be confronted with attempts to resist it. One glimpse of Mrs.

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