Addressing the Unspeakable: The Feral Child as Literary Device

  • Carol Fenlon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This project aims to explore the fictional image of the feral child through practice-based and critical research. The novel Consider The Lilies, comprising the main body of the thesis explores the relationship between Vicky, a woman who suffered isolated confinement as a child, and Jack, the main narrator, as he searches for his lost identity. In the critical component, analysis of the image using historical perspectives locates its function within the text as one of radical critique, reviewing existing social practices from a defamiliansed perspective. Exploration of contemporary texts focuses this critique on the role of language in the formation of the individual consciousness. The application of psychoanalytic theories, in particular the work of Julia Kristeva on the semiotic chora, identifies the function of the fictional image of the feral child as a catalyst permitting the expression of the semiotic in the text. An examination of a specific text, Jill Dawson's Wild Boy (2003) tests this proposition and evaluates the poetics involved in the composition. The simultaneous development of practice-based and critical research is discussed in the chapter on the poetics of wildness which traces the writing process and its motivation. The concluding arguments consolidate the position that the fictional image of the feral child acts as a catalyst permitting an address to the unspeakable and the expression of the semiotic in the text which carries a revolutionary potential but recognise that this image is only one means of making such address, situating this research as part of an ongoing poetics which will continue to influence future writing.
Date of Award25 Mar 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University


  • Literary Device
  • Feral Child

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