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Savage Girls and Wild Boys


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About the Author

Michael Newton has taught at University College London and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Savage Girls and Wild Boys is his first book. He currently teaches at Princeton University. He divides his time between London and Princeton, New Jersey.


As a child, literature professor Michael Newton (University College, London) was captivated by Tarzan movies and Kipling's The Jungle Book. It's only fitting, then, that his first book, Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children, would investigate the history of children raised by (among others) wolves, monkeys and wild dogs. If these children help us understand "our continuing relationship with the savage image of ourselves" they also serve as a useful mirror of society's ills. As Newton argues, the medical treatments, therapeutic interventions, and general media hoopla following the discoveries of these children sharply reveal the intellectual and political fixations of their particular historical milieu from Victor, the "Wild Child of Aveyron," in 1800, onward. As interesting as such stories are in themselves, however, Newton's real strength lies in his ability to recognize how these children, seemingly helpless yet astonishingly self-contained, inevitably awaken our rescue fantasies and parental longings. Newton is a consummate storyteller, and this richly detailed study will work just as well outside of academe as within it. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

In his first book, Newton (University Coll., London) covers notorious cases of "wild children," broadly defined to include those raised by animals and others who grew up in the wilderness or in some form of solitary confinement. He analyzes historical figures ranging from Peter the Wild Boy, who fascinated 18th-century London, to Genie, who was discovered in Los Angeles in 1970. Chapters relate life histories and theories of origin but focus heavily on society's response to such children and the issues they raised in public discourse. The author painstakingly shows how mentors and philosophers used such children to develop ideas on the essence of humanity, evolution, racial hierarchies, and language acquisition. Conclusions about the factual truth of such stories are not of primary concern-the discussion is more insightful about why past societies were intrigued by such stories rather than what causes similar tales (e.g., Yeti creatures) to surface today. However, this is a richly referenced compilation suited to academic social science collections or serious educated readers.-Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Newton is a supple, intelligent writer, more an essayist than a scholar." --Laura Miller,"Extraordinary...[shows] great courage." --Rocky Mountain News (Denver)"Newton is a consummate storyteller...[a] detailed study." --Publishers Weekly"This is a richly referenced compilation." --Library Journal"A collection of six, extraordinary individual histories, beautifully navigated." --The Evening Standard (UK)"[An] absorbing study...he shows a keen and sensitive understanding." --The Sunday Times (UK)

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