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Literary RelationsKinship and the Canon 1660-1830$
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Jane Spencer

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199262960

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199262960.001.0001

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The Mighty Mother

The Mighty Mother

(p.73) 2 The Mighty Mother
Literary Relations

Jane Spencer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that while literary paternity has been understood in historical terms as set of relationships between real men, literary maternity has been imagined in mythical terms, its common tropes being that of the male poet as metaphorical mother to his poems, and the poet as son to a maternal goddess. However, a few cases in the 18th and early 19th centuries of female writers who were in real life the mothers of writers began to alter cultural representations of literary maternity. The chapter examines both the negative picture of the mother-goddess presented by Pope in The Dunciad, and the more positive attitude of the later 1700s to poetic inheritance from mother Nature. Cases of mother-son and mother-daughter relationships between writers are examined, including those between Frances and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.

Keywords:   maternity, mythical, goddess, Nature, mother-son, mother-daughter, Pope, The Dunciad, Frances Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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