If the child is the father of the man, as William Wordsworth so famously declared, then what of the father that child grows to become? How does a daughter born of her mother’s death, as in the case of Mary Shelley, navigate the politics of production and reproduction within a loaded language of mythological allusion between generational authorships? How do the visual arts perpetuate or challenge cultural agendas, such as portraying patriarchal anxieties about the “effeminization” of homeland by the foreign “other”, or attempting, iconically, to “save the soul” of a nation? How do parents both encode and decode our world? With the rise of the cult of the child in the later 18th and 19th centuries, Romantic writers of Britain and Europe, and eventually of North America, were perfectly positioned to explore, by extension, what it meant to “parent,” whether it be in within the domestic or the political sphere.
The essays in Romanticism and Parenting: Image, Instruction and Ideology offer a fresh, timely, and cutting edge contribution to the field of Romantic studies. The collection has its roots in conference proceedings from the 2005 Romanticism and Parenting Conference held at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington. Essays acknowledge traditional discussions of such quintessentially “Romantic” themes as the child, education and familial politics while building upon contemporary innovative arguments within the contexts of Romanticism. As a result, chapters in the collection range from examining didactic children’s literature to complicating constructions of the family politic at personal, communal and nationalistic levels. While challenging and deepening an understanding of Romantic studies, the collection also points to current, dynamic issues, such as the burgeoning discussion of the experience that actual parents face in academia. Consequently, the collection reveals how the Romantic period has come to profoundly influence our own current constructions of the politics of parenting.