Nursing Mothers and National Identity

Trubowitz Rachel

in Nation and Nurture in Seventeenth-Century English Literature

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199604739
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741074 | DOI:
Nursing Mothers and National Identity

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This chapter explores why the revalued figure of the nursing mother has political and religious appeal for both Reformers and traditionalists. The new mother's equivocal valences find diverse expression in Puritan domestic guidebooks, humanist treatises, Elizabeth Clinton's The Countess of Lincolns Nurserie, and early modern engravings such as The power of women by Jan Wiernix. Drawing on biblical models of motherhood (including Sarah and Mary) and on both old-and-new scientific observations about maternal nature, these wide-ranging texts and visual images incoherently describe maternal nurture as sacred, secular, natural, spiritual, vocational, humoral, and empirically understandable, all at the same time. This chapter lays the groundwork for the book's argument that the reformed figure of the nurturing mother ambiguously mediates between old-and-new paradigms of English national identity.

Keywords: nurture; nature; divinity; body; spirit; theory of humors; empiricism; biblical exegesis

Chapter.  13639 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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