Monstrous Motherhood

Monstrous Motherhood

Eighteenth-century Culture and the Ideology of Domesticity

eBook - 2013
Rate this:
Book News
Looking at the 'long 18th century', from 1660 through 1820, this study analyzes several constructions of motherhood in a variety of contexts and the ways in which those contexts affected maternal identity, maternal agency, and mothers' experiences, with special attention to patterns of maternal voices and silences, patterns of societal expectations and judgments of mothers, and the designations of maternal monstrosity and perfection. Francus (English, West Virginia University) examines lesser-known and canonical literary texts, as well as popular conduct manuals of the period and real cases. Some specific subjects include maternal allegory in Swift and Pope, infanticide in the public record, and stepmothers in literature. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Johns Hopkins University Press

Although credited with the rise of domesticity, eighteenth-century British culture singularly lacked narratives of good mothers, ostensibly the most domestic of females. With startling frequency, the best mother was absent, disembodied, voiceless, or dead. British culture told tales almost exclusively of wicked, surrogate, or spectral mothers—revealing the defects of domestic ideology, the cultural fascination with standards and deviance, and the desire to police maternal behaviors.

Monstrous Motherhood analyzes eighteenth-century motherhood in light of the inconsistencies among domestic ideology, narrative, and historical practice. If domesticity was so important, why is the good mother’s story absent or peripheral? What do the available maternal narratives suggest about domestic ideology and the expectations and enactment of motherhood? By focusing on literary and historical mothers in novels, plays, poems, diaries, conduct manuals, contemporary court cases, realist fiction, fairy tales, satire, and romance, Marilyn Francus reclaims silenced maternal voices and perspectives. She exposes the mechanisms of maternal marginalization and spectralization in eighteenth-century culture and revises the domesticity thesis.

Monstrous Motherhood will compel scholars in eighteenth-century studies, women’s studies, family history, and cultural studies to reevaluate a foundational assumption that has driven much of the discourse in their fields.

Publisher: Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. (Baltimore, Md. : Project MUSE, 2013)
ISBN: 9781421407982
Characteristics: 1 online resource (352 pages)


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

There are no comments for this title yet.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at WPL

To Top