Occupying the grey space in the eighteenth century maternal dichotomy: An analysis of maria edgeworth's contributions to concepts of maternal identity and possibility in Belinda
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Motherhood was a widely popular topic in Eighteenth Century texts. Period writers often described mothers as saintly good or demonically bad, with nothing in between. In Eighteenth Century texts, mothers must be wholly good in order to be considered natural; thus, one mistake, no matter how big or small, puts a woman at risk of being branded as a bad mother. Contemporary scholars have inherited this flawed dichotomy, and continue to use it when discussing Eighteenth Century maternal texts. This thesis examines and historicizes the maternal dichotomy. More importantly, this thesis broadens the dichotomy, in order to make room for texts like Maria Edgeworth's Belinda , which offers its unnatural mother character redemption and a second chance--something the vast majority of Eighteenth Century texts were unwilling or unable to do.