“A gold mine for readers, bringing together a wealth of material on late Victorian and Edwardian paternity gleaned from an array of periodical sources.”
“Nelson’s study is an intelligent blend of . . . two approaches: She studies the idea of fatherhood as it appeared in the periodicals, seeing the expression of that idea within the context of a particular forum with a definable audience. She does her job well.”
“A thoughtful, nicely written study . . . Nelson has done admirable work, and the overall analysis is cogent”
—Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
“A valuable contribution both to the study of Victorian periodicals and to our understanding of middle-class masculinity”
—Victorian Periodicals Review
Invisible Men focuses on the tremendous growth of periodical literature from 1850 to 1910 to illustrate how Victorian and Edwardian thought and culture problematized fatherhood within the family. Drawing on political, scientific, domestic, and religious periodicals, Claudia Nelson shows how positive portrayals of fatherhood virtually disappeared as motherhood claimed an exalted position with imagined ties to patriotism, social reform, and religious influence.
The study begins with the pre-Victorian role of the father in the middle-class home —as one who led the family in prayer, administered discipline, and determined the children’s education, marriage, and career. In subsequent decades, fatherhood was increasingly scrutinized while a new definition of motherhood and femininity emerged. The solution to the newly perceived dilemma of fatherhood appeared rooted in traditional feminine values—nurturance, selflessness, and sensitivity. The critique presented in Invisible Men extends our contemporary debate over men’s proper role within the family, providing a historical context for the various images of fatherhood as we practice and dispute them today.
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