A ‘pupil of innocent Nature!’ The wild boy of Aveyron goes to Paris

in Idiocy

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9781846310959
Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781846315367
A ‘pupil of innocent Nature!’ The wild boy of Aveyron goes to Paris

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This chapter explores some of the main recurring themes in the reports written on the wild boy of Aveyron, including his shifting status as, among other things, Homo ferus, ineducable idiot, and tabula rasa who is simply awaiting the teacher with his chalk. In addition to Jean Marc Gaspard Itard's reports, it considers the descriptions by the naturalists Joseph Bonnaterre and J.-J. Virey, and the assessment of the boy presented by Philippe Pinel to the Société des Observateurs de l'Homme (Society of the Observers of Man). The writings about the wild boy condense certain fascinating elements of eighteenth-century thought concerning the boundaries of the human and questions about the virtue of the ‘natural man’, in a fusion of Enlightenment rationality and romantic desire for a pre-civilized state.

Keywords: wild boy; Aveyron; Jean Marc Gaspard Itard; Joseph Bonnaterre; J.-J. Virey; Philippe Pinel; natural man

Chapter.  13309 words. 

Subjects: Cultural Studies

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