Essays in Romanticism

Perambulating Mice and the Confluence of Sympathy and Moral Education

Essays in Romanticism (2021), 28, (1), 25–42.

Abstract

The late eighteenth century was the locus of a burgeoning interest in animal rights. This essay examines the critical role that children’s literature had in the evolution of more consideration for animal welfare. The use of animals in the works of writers such as Sarah Trimmer, Mary Wollstonecraft, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Dorothy Kilner helped create a form of animal subjectivity as a means of teaching children compassion through the creation of sympathy for nonhuman animals. By fostering compassion for the needs of so-called “dumb creatures” children could also be taught, by extension, to have more consideration for other people. In particular, Dorothy Kilner’s animal autobiography The Life and Perambulations of a Mouse offers a new way of viewing animals who are neither physical nor affectional slaves as worthy of both consideration and compassion.

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Lichtenwalner, Shawna