April 20th 2015
Centre for Modernist Studies, University of Sussex
Keynote Speakers: Professor Douglas Mao and Dr. Natalia Cecire.
In 1802 William Wordsworth famously declared, “The Child is father of the Man”. Some 100 years later Sigmund Freud would bring new relevance to this statement with his burgeoning psychoanalytic theory of the determinative nature of childhood. The 1920s saw a wealth of intellectual development theorists, among them John B. Watson, whose Behaviorist work famously produced the controversial ‘Little Albert’ study of 1920. Then, in 1952, phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty delivered his lectures on Child Psychology and Pedagogy at The Sorbonne, exploring childhood from a standpoint that attempted to articulate and examine the alternative academic points of view at work in child development studies. Now, in the early twenty-first century, it is possible to distinguish ‘Philosophy of Childhood’ as a recognisably independent field of enquiry within mainstream philosophy.
Taking inspiration from Merleau-Ponty’s desire to approach the question of childhood from multiple standpoints, this conference aims to explore literary representations of childhood in modernism. Things we may consider include why what Katherine Mansfield called in her journal the “rage for confession, autobiography, especially memories of earliest childhood” was so prevalent in modernism? How reading the contemporaneous work of psychologists and sociologists can affect our understanding of literary discussions of childhood, thereby querying what it means for modernists to write the child at a time when childhood itself was undergoing both radical theoretical and practical changes? In what ways the modernist desire for “newness”, youth, and innovation is captured by the style, form, and breadth of its literary engagement with children and childhood? Particularly, how the techniques of children’s literature or the use of childish language operate within modernist texts produced both for children and adults? In addition, how the visual arts of the era respond to the question of childhood and, moreover, what reading the visual arts and the literary arts as being concerned with a similar project to explore childhood does to reveal each discipline’s engagement?
Please note that the Call for Papers for Modernism’s Child has now closed. Please check back soon for the programme for the event.