Is There a Text in this Child? Childness and the child-authored text

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JournalChildren's Literature in Education
DateAccepted/In press - 31 Jul 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 5 Feb 2019
Number of pages16
Early online date5/02/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article looks at child-authored texts, both real and fictional, and the adult discourse surrounding or commenting on such texts, focusing on the example of young Marcel’s writing in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and on the critical commentary on the juvenilia of child authors of the 19th and early 20th century. I argue, using Peter Hollindale’s concept of childness, that adult texts written about and around child-authored texts have a tendency to perform themselves the kind of childly characteristics that they hope to see in the children’s texts. The childness of child-authored texts is an all but illusory characteristic if it is envisaged as an intrinsic or essential feature of the texts; however, the adult awareness of the existence of a child-authored text shapes and deforms adult discourse around it in ways that are attributable, at least in part, to the characteristics of childness expected of young writers in a given place and time. Thus, I conclude, the adult text ends up more childly than the child’s; and, by conditioning the reader’s approach to the child’s text as childly, it is the adult’s text, paradoxically, that contaminates it with childness.

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© The Author(s) 2018

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