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IdiocyA Cultural History$
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Patrick McDonagh

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781846310959

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846315367

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date: 29 May 2017

A ‘pupil of innocent Nature!’ The wild boy of Aveyron goes to Paris

A ‘pupil of innocent Nature!’ The wild boy of Aveyron goes to Paris

Chapter:
(p.50) Chapter 3 A ‘pupil of innocent Nature!’ The wild boy of Aveyron goes to Paris
Source:
Idiocy
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846315367.004

This chapter explores some of the main recurring themes in the reports written on the wild boy of Aveyron, including his shifting status as, among other things, Homo ferus, ineducable idiot, and tabula rasa who is simply awaiting the teacher with his chalk. In addition to Jean Marc Gaspard Itard's reports, it considers the descriptions by the naturalists Joseph Bonnaterre and J.-J. Virey, and the assessment of the boy presented by Philippe Pinel to the Société des Observateurs de l'Homme (Society of the Observers of Man). The writings about the wild boy condense certain fascinating elements of eighteenth-century thought concerning the boundaries of the human and questions about the virtue of the ‘natural man’, in a fusion of Enlightenment rationality and romantic desire for a pre-civilized state.

Keywords:   wild boy, Aveyron, Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, Joseph Bonnaterre, J.-J. Virey, Philippe Pinel, natural man

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