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Teaching Every Principle of the Infidels and Republicans? Politics and Pedagogy in William Godwinʼs Childrenʼs Book

Dates:
  • Fri 23 Nov 2018 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2018-11-23 15:00 2018-11-23 17:00 Europe/Paris Teaching Every Principle of the Infidels and Republicans? Politics and Pedagogy in William Godwinʼs Childrenʼs Book

Focussing on the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century radical William Godwin, this thesis examines the relationship between children’s books and society by investigating the different ways in which authors try to bring about social change. The main claim of this work is that, in writing books for children, Godwin was attempting something radical and complex: to create a new kind of youth culture that was enquiring, knowledgeable and critical. A youth culture, therefore, that was likely to pave the way for the kind of social and political progress Godwin advocated in his better-known works such as the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). Often treated either as a way for a financially precarious, out-of-fashion radical writer to make ends meet or as illustrations of Godwin’s broader philosophical and political claims from the 1790s, Godwin’s books for children have not received sustained scholarly attention. This thesis, taking the form of an ‘intellectual history through children’s books’, seeks to show their significance in Godwin’s oeuvre and as cultural and literary artefacts of the turn of the nineteenth century. Godwin’s works for children are therefore contextualised at three different levels: (1) within Godwin’s own thinking, expressed in print and in unpublished manuscripts; (2) within the range of similar writing for children of the time; and (3) within broader late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century intellectual debates, particularly those concerning education, morality, religion and history. By contextualising Godwin’s children’s books in this way, this thesis (1) highlights the relationship between the cultural and intellectual worlds of children and adults; (2) clarifies Godwin’s broader lines of thought during the less well studied ‘middle period’ of his life; (3) examines in detail Godwin’s attempt to reform (or re-form) a whole generation of children as he sought to unseat common assumptions about morality, religion, history and society while more generally awakening their minds.

Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle

Focussing on the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century radical William Godwin, this thesis examines the relationship between children’s books and society by investigating the different ways in which authors try to bring about social change. The main claim of this work is that, in writing books for children, Godwin was attempting something radical and complex: to create a new kind of youth culture that was enquiring, knowledgeable and critical. A youth culture, therefore, that was likely to pave the way for the kind of social and political progress Godwin advocated in his better-known works such as the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). Often treated either as a way for a financially precarious, out-of-fashion radical writer to make ends meet or as illustrations of Godwin’s broader philosophical and political claims from the 1790s, Godwin’s books for children have not received sustained scholarly attention. This thesis, taking the form of an ‘intellectual history through children’s books’, seeks to show their significance in Godwin’s oeuvre and as cultural and literary artefacts of the turn of the nineteenth century. Godwin’s works for children are therefore contextualised at three different levels: (1) within Godwin’s own thinking, expressed in print and in unpublished manuscripts; (2) within the range of similar writing for children of the time; and (3) within broader late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century intellectual debates, particularly those concerning education, morality, religion and history. By contextualising Godwin’s children’s books in this way, this thesis (1) highlights the relationship between the cultural and intellectual worlds of children and adults; (2) clarifies Godwin’s broader lines of thought during the less well studied ‘middle period’ of his life; (3) examines in detail Godwin’s attempt to reform (or re-form) a whole generation of children as he sought to unseat common assumptions about morality, religion, history and society while more generally awakening their minds.


Location:
Sala del Camino - Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Francesca Parenti - Send a mail

Examiner:
Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway University of London)
Stéphane Van Damme (EUI and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris)
Prof. Pamela Clemit (Queen Mary University of London)

Supervisor:
Ann Thomson (European University Institute)

Defendant:
John-Erik Hansson (University of Cergy-Pontoise)

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