Historians of childhood have heralded British political philosopher John Locke as the first modern pedagogue to promote a child-centered education that recognized the unique traits and developmental stages of childhood. Two recent books on nineteenth-century American childhood by Patricia Crain and Allison Speicher suggest an alternative way of understanding Locke’s significance—he was the first modern pedagogue to popularize the metaphor of the child’s mind as an empty page awaiting inscription by life experience. Neither Crain nor Speicher directly discusses Locke’s theory of the child as tabula rasa, but both authors contribute to an appreciation of the identification of children with technologies of literacy that have emerged since Locke dominated thinking about children and childhood in the mid-eighteenth century. The historicization of metaphors for children’s learning reminds us that we do not necessarily get any closer to truths about children simply because our metaphors become more sophisticated and technologically advanced. Children,...
Reading Children: Literacy, Property, and the Dilemmas of Childhood in Nineteenth-Century America
Schooling Readers: Reading Common Schools in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction
Lucia Hodgson is assistant professor of English at Texas A&M University, where she teaches courses in early American, African American, and children’s literature. She is the founder and convener of the Critical Childhood Studies Working Group hosted by the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research. She is author of Raised in Captivity: Why Does America Fail Its Children? (Graywolf Press, 1997) and an essay on Phillis Wheatley in Early American Literature. She is currently completing a book manuscript titled “Age of Consent: Seduction, Slavery, and American Girlhood.” Her work has been supported by a Huntington Library Fellowship.
Lucia Hodgson; Reading Children: Literacy, Property, and the Dilemmas of Childhood in Nineteenth-Century America
Schooling Readers: Reading Common Schools in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction. American Literature 1 June 2019; 91 (2): 420–422. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-7529215
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