Forms of Formation: Tolerating the Romantic-Era Teen

Tim Moore

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Following on from recent research confirming the conceptual presence of adolescence within the eighteenth century, this thesis examines tolerant adult attitudes towards adolescent independence and (mis)behaviour as represented by British literature from 1780-1825. It is a cross-generic study that analyses various formal representations of adult characters, narrators and writers who respond to adolescent folly as less a serious moral shortcoming than a phenomenon that was typically harmless, transitory, and even at times vicariously instructive. Far from being rare or unusual, this tolerant attitude towards adolescence is argued to form a continual presence within the Romantic-era literary marketplace, that reappeared within many of the period’s most popular genres. Literary forms such as children’s literature, romance novels, conduct literature, autobiographies, pedagogical novels and more are shown to feature not just permissive adult characters and narrators but also various other formal devices and interventions that belied their authors’ participation in a wider cultural tolerance of adolescent (mis)behaviour. By analysing the unique methodologies adopted for this purpose within such a wide range of generic forms, this thesis constitutes both a formal study of genre and a literary-historical study of the representation of youth. Its primary contention is that the interval of time between 1780 and 1825 formed a unique literary period in which British writings across a whole series of genres manifested a tolerance of adolescent independence and misbehaviour unseen in the periods immediately before and after. Thus, by addressing a post-revolutionary era itself associated with transition, this thesis provides a fresh, more complex perspective on both the range and change in attitudes towards youth as represented by British Romantic-era literature.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Livesey, Ruth, Supervisor
  • Hawley, Judith, Advisor
Award date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Adolescence
  • Romanticism

Cite this