The Children's Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities

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9780820345222: The Children's Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities

Like the occupants of the children's table at a family dinner, scholars working in childhood studies can seem sidelined from the "adult" labor of humanities scholarship. The Children's Table brings together scholars from architecture, philosophy, law, and literary and cultural criticism to provide an overview of the innovative work being done in childhood studies―a transcript of what is being said at the children's table. Together, these scholars argue for rethinking the academic seating arrangement in a way that acknowledges the centrality of childhood to the work of the humanities.

The figure we now recognize as a child was created in tandem with forms of modernity that the Enlightenment generated and that the humanities are now working to rethink. Thus the growth of childhood studies allows for new approaches to some of the most important and provocative issues in humanities scholarship: the viability of the social contract, the definition of agency, the performance of identity, and the construction of gender, sexuality, and race. Because defining childhood is a means of defining and distributing power and obligation, studying childhood requires a radically altered approach to what constitutes knowledge about the human subject.

The diverse essays in The Children's Table share a unifying premise: to include the child in any field of study realigns the shape of that field, changing the terms of inquiry and forcing a different set of questions. Taken as a whole, the essays argue that, at this key moment in the state of the humanities, rethinking the child is both necessary and revolutionary.

Contributors: Annette Ruth Appell, Sophie Bell, Robin Bernstein, Sarah Chinn, Lesley Ginsberg, Lucia Hodgson, Susan Honeyman, Roy Kozlovsky, James Marten, Karen Sánchez-Eppler, Carol Singley, Lynne Vallone, John Wall.

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About the Author:

ANNA MAE DUANE is an associate professor of English and director of the American Studies Program at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim (Georgia).

Review:

A welcome addition to the growing field of childhood studies, The Children's Table offers astute and thought-provoking essays addressing such areas of humanistic inquiry as philosophy, law, architecture, American studies, and children's literature.

(Beverly Lyon Clark Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America)

This important collection of essays seeks to define the emerging discipline of childhood studies, to explain what it has to contribute and how that understanding provides an analytic tool to help us approach many fields. These essays challenge the binary manner in which modern society divides adults from children and propose much more subtle approaches for reconsidering the spectrum of human capability. As they rightly argue, paying attention to children has the potential to make us reconsider many other categories of ability and our entire conception of dependency. It forces us to reframe our ability to understand the past as well as our present. Arguing persuasively that the enlightenment bifurcation dividing childhood from adulthood hides as much as it reveals, they suggest many approaches for overcoming it and make powerful arguments for why we must try.

(Holly Brewer Burke Professor of American History, University of Maryland)

This timely collection on childhood studies is both usefully focused and richly diverse, with essays on literature, history, architecture, critical race studies, child-centered jurisprudence, adoption, gender and queer identity, archive studies, and performance theory. Taking up critical questions of disciplinarity, professionalization, and institutionalization, The Children’s Table models and encourages greater dialogue within as well as beyond the humanities. Useful for advanced students and scholars, it also offers an excellent introduction to the subject. An impressive, fun, highly engaging volume.

(Kenneth Kidd Freud in Oz: At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children’s Literature)

An essay collection that will empower readers with the resources to articulate the significance of childhood studies. .. A benchmark contribution, The Children’s Table defines our field and illuminates our future. (M. Tyler Sasser International Research in Children's Literature)

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