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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 5, Number 2 (June 2007) : 167--97
Two Patterns of Child Neglect
Blake and Wordsworth
Galia Benziman
Rubric A: Topoi

Abstract

Reading some well-known childhood poems by Blake and Wordsworth, the article challenges the accepted opinion that the Puritan and Romantic concepts of the child at the turn of the nineteenth century functioned as opposites. Instead, the article offers a reading that unravels the residues of Puritan and catechetical thinking in texts by two of the earliest advocates of the childís perspective as a valuable human and poetic quality. Though denouncing authoritarian and catechetical modes of interaction in which the childís speech is silenced, Blake and Wordsworth, writing at a moment of cultural transition, construct the child in a way that indicates a failure of their own declared purpose of redeeming the childís perspective and voice as valuably distinct from those of the adult. Although formally and grammatically the voice of Blakeís poetic child is sometimes restored to him, the child is made a spokesman of a sophisticated and emphatically adult discourse of political radicalism. Similarly in Wordsworth, the construction of the child as a necessary layer in the uncovering of the poetic and autobiographical Self denies the child its valuable difference through an adult voiceís ongoing narcissistic ventriloquism. The adult speakerís idealization of the childís freedom is ambiguated by the implicit association of freedom with parental neglect, which involves a disregard of the childís perspective. Thus, in contrast to the declared agenda of the poems, they also imply a desire that the child be less liberated and more regulated by the adult world.


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