An investigation into attitudes towards illegitimate birth by Sarah Joanne Davies

By Sarah Joanne Davies

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It might be argued that the dualities discerned within the songs are more revealing of the theory being applied than of emic categories within the songs themselves. The discussion surrounding "Young A-Growing," is a case in point. Here, Renwick attempts to eradicate the inconsistencies in a song presenting some unusual inversions in terms of the euphemistic model (99-100). g. activity versus passivity] are heavily imbricated in the patriarchal value system: each opposition can be analysed as a hierarchy where the "feminine" side is always seen as the negative, powerless instance.

However, this explanation seems to oversimplify the complexities of the relationship between song and its social context, characterised by the processes of distortion, escapism, exaggeration and inversion discerned by Gammon. Analysis of the importance of the songs to their "consumers" remains at a fairly superficial level. How songs apparently warning about the dangers of sex outside marriage appealed to the "romantic instincts" of women in particular is not discussed. However, the "register of gender" (see below) might, as Preston has argued, be a key issue, playing an important part in the reading of such texts.

I would not therefore see the fact that a large number of songs relating to out-of-wedlock pregnancy and illegitimate birth appear in all four categories as particularly significant, because StewarVs lack of clarity in relation to her own interpretative framework mars the usefulness of her findings. Stewart goes on to examine the didactic purposes to which Child ballads are put by women in more contemporary contexts. Unfortunately, sweeping generalisations are poorly substantiated, using isolated examples, many of which are not among her original sample.

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