Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children

Overview

"Savage Girls and Wild Boys is a fascinating history of extraordinary children - brought up by animals, raised in the wilderness, or locked up for long years in solitary confinement." Savage Girls and Wild Boys examines the lives of these children and of the adults who "rescued" them, looked after them, educated, or abused them. How can we explain the mixture of disgust and envy that such children can provoke? And what can they teach us about our notions of education, civilization, and man's true nature? ...
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Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children

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Overview

"Savage Girls and Wild Boys is a fascinating history of extraordinary children - brought up by animals, raised in the wilderness, or locked up for long years in solitary confinement." Savage Girls and Wild Boys examines the lives of these children and of the adults who "rescued" them, looked after them, educated, or abused them. How can we explain the mixture of disgust and envy that such children can provoke? And what can they teach us about our notions of education, civilization, and man's true nature?
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Newton is a supple, intelligent writer, more an essayist than a scholar."--Laura Miller, Salon.com

"Extraordinary...[shows] great courage." --Rocky Mountain News (Denver)

"Newton is a consummate storyteller...[a] detailed study." --Publishers Weekly

"This is a richly referenced compilation."--Library Journal

"A collection of six, extraordinary individual histories, beautifully navigated."--The Evening Standard (UK)

"[An] absorbing study...he shows a keen and sensitive understanding."--The Sunday Times (UK)

Publishers Weekly
As a child, literature professor Michael Newton (University College, London) was captivated by Tarzan movies and Kipling's The Jungle Book. It's only fitting, then, that his first book, Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children, would investigate the history of children raised by (among others) wolves, monkeys and wild dogs. If these children help us understand "our continuing relationship with the savage image of ourselves" they also serve as a useful mirror of society's ills. As Newton argues, the medical treatments, therapeutic interventions, and general media hoopla following the discoveries of these children sharply reveal the intellectual and political fixations of their particular historical milieu from Victor, the "Wild Child of Aveyron," in 1800, onward. As interesting as such stories are in themselves, however, Newton's real strength lies in his ability to recognize how these children, seemingly helpless yet astonishingly self-contained, inevitably awaken our rescue fantasies and parental longings. Newton is a consummate storyteller, and this richly detailed study will work just as well outside of academe as within it. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his first book, Newton (University Coll., London) covers notorious cases of "wild children," broadly defined to include those raised by animals and others who grew up in the wilderness or in some form of solitary confinement. He analyzes historical figures ranging from Peter the Wild Boy, who fascinated 18th-century London, to Genie, who was discovered in Los Angeles in 1970. Chapters relate life histories and theories of origin but focus heavily on society's response to such children and the issues they raised in public discourse. The author painstakingly shows how mentors and philosophers used such children to develop ideas on the essence of humanity, evolution, racial hierarchies, and language acquisition. Conclusions about the factual truth of such stories are not of primary concern-the discussion is more insightful about why past societies were intrigued by such stories rather than what causes similar tales (e.g., Yeti creatures) to surface today. However, this is a richly referenced compilation suited to academic social science collections or serious educated readers.-Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
British professor Newton vents a ten-year obsession, stemming from his Ph.D. dissertation, by examining six celebrated cases of so-called feral children. Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome, are seen by the author as emblematic of the mythic mystery surrounding stories of infants supposedly nurtured in the wild by animals. But not all feral children were raised by wolves: the lost and abandoned, those stuffed into closets, pigsties, or henhouses for years on end by abusive or psychotic "guardians" all initially present society with the same tragic and, it seems, irresistibly exploitable circumstances. In some of the cases Newton delves into, the discovered child could not speak and never fully acquired language; in others, the facility remained from earlier childhood and almost inevitably led to charges of fraud and duplicity that, in the end, transmuted one kind of suffering into another. All of these stories (and others mentioned in passing) are intrinsically fascinating, but the author leans toward intellectual meandering that can take the edge off his revelations. In the case of Peter, the 18th-century "wild boy" brought to England from Germany, for example, Newton’s speculations on the involvement of writers Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe and their reflections on the matter consume entire pages. He touches a nerve, however, in summing up the stark fact that in almost all of these instances, spanning several centuries to the present day, no one could be found who would simply care for the lost child without serving some vested interest. Thankfully, that we get a seemingly happy ending for contemporary wild child Ivan Mishukov, whose story appears in the beginning. Thefour-year-old Muscovite, who took to the streets in 1996 with a pack of dogs that actually kept the cops at bay while he stole food from restaurant kitchens and eventually "promoted" him to pack leader, is now back in school and progressing normally. Fascinating tales, analyzed at times to excess.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312423353
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 941,774
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Newton teaches at University College London and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. This is his first book.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Foreword
1 The Child of Nature 1
2 Bodies Without Souls 16
3 Lord Monboddo and the Savage Girl 53
4 Radical Innocence 98
5 The Child of Europe 128
6 The Woff-Children 182
7 Where Is Tomorrow, Mrs L.? 208
Notes 241
Bibliography 253
Index 275
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