[Milton-L] Source (death poems, infant mortality, etc.)

Margaret Thickstun mthickst at hamilton.edu
Sat Jan 31 10:10:24 EST 2004

Jameela--the Natural History article I mentioned argues that, in 
these Brazilian slums struggling with extreme poverty, a mother would 
assess the survivability of a particular newborn and nurture or 
not--invest herself or not emotionally--on that determination (and 
sometimes one infant's survivability would be downgraded because the 
woman had another toddler in which she was already invested).  The 
researcher had been struck by mothers who would callously watch one 
infant die, while feeding it only sugar water, but be inconsolable 
after the death of another infant/toddler.  So she posits this 
protective emotional response: if it won't live, don't get attached.

It has always seemed to me a plausible psychological explanation for 
attachment in the past as well.  I'll find the reference.--Margie

>There's indeed a school of thought that posits a revolution in feeling
>toward children--Lawrence Stone, Philip Aries, et al.--but it has
>inevitably been challenged by a "continuist" school that insists that
>people have always pretty much loved their offspring.  Joan Acocella
>recently published a review of a Yale social history series, and she
>particularly looks at the two interpretations of data on affective
>attitudes toward children (_The New Yorker_, August 18-25, 2003). 
>Acocella more or less concludes (or at least reports someone else as
>concluding) that it is impossible to determine the state of past emotions,
>since we only have certain kinds of records to go by.
>Jameela Lares
>Associate Professor of English
>Univ. of So. Mississippi
>118 College Drive #5037
>Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
>+601 266-6214
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu

Margaret Thickstun
Professor of English
Hamilton College
198 College Hill Rd
Clinton, NY 13323

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