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"The Construction of Age-Specific Identities in English Children’s Literature from 1689-1789"

Dr. Anja Müller
(Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg)

Compared to the vast amount of studies on race, class and gender, age has so far been either widely neglected as a category of identity construction, or it has been exclusively investigated with regard to old age. This project therefore tries to fill a gap as it examines how concepts of childhood contributed to establishing age as a category of identity in the eighteenth century.

Starting from the assumption that the increasing number of representations of children and childhood in the eighteenth century does not simply mirror an increased interest in or understanding of children (so the tenor of the seminal works on the history of childhood by Ariès, Pollock, deMause and Stone), but that these representations define identities with particular social and political functions, the project enquires into the function of eighteenth-century children’s literature as a medium to constitute and proliferate concepts of childhood.

Four major issues form the core of the project:

1. Material quality: In how far does children’s literature also constitute a distinct medial genre which differs significantly from the medial form of literature for adults (e.g. format, illustrations)? How and where does children’s literature as a commodity position the child in the consumer society of the eighteenth century?

2. Aesthetics: How does children’s literature negotiate, both implicitly and explicitly, the distinctive features that eventually result in an age-specific differentiation of the literary field?

3. Reception: What is the function of this genre for the construction of age-specific identities? This question is not only concerned with emerging identities of the “child” but also to those of the “adult”, or “parents”.

4. Theory: What is the function of children’s literature for the mediation, proliferation and implementation of child-related discourses (e.g. concepts of childhood, education)?

As “legitimate” and “illegitimate” texts for children co-existed side by side for the greater part of the eighteenth century, these questions focus especially on the process and the strategies of inclusion and exclusion appertaining to the emergence of this new literary genre and the identity categories it represented.


0 Entries found.


Anja Müller (*1969)

Studied English, Theology and German at the University of Koblenz-Landau at Landau and the University of Kent at Canterbury

1992 first state examination as a secondary school teacher at "Realschulen"; 1995 combined master's degree (Magister Artium) at Landau

2000 PhD at Landau, with a thesis on representation, intertextuality and intermediality in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (published 2001 by Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier)

1993-1997 graduate research assistant in the English Department of the University of Koblenz-Landau at Landau

1997-2000 part-time lecturer in the English Department of the University of Koblenz-Landau at Landau

2000-2002 academic staff member in the English Department of the University of Greifswald
since 2002 assistant professor of English literature at the University of Bamberg

Publications: articles on contemporary English drama (Stoppard, Greig, Ayckbourn, Ravenhill, Hare), John Banville, Anthony Burgess, Lady Gregory, Oscar Wilde, Frances Burney, eighteenth-century periodicals, eighteenth-century editions of Aesop’s Fables; co-editor (together with Christoph Houswitschka) of Staging Displacement, Exile and Diaspora (Trier: WVT, 2005).

Current projects: edition of Fashioning Childhood in Eighteenth-Century England: Age and Identity (Aldershot: Ashgate, forthcoming 2006) and co-edition (together with Christoph Houswitschka) of Anglistentag Bamberg 2005: Proceedings (Trier: WVT, forthcoming 2006). Research project (“Habilitation”) on “Framing Childhood in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals and Prints”


40 Entries found.

    Keupp, Heiner et al. Identitätskonstruktionen: Das Patchwork der Identitäten in der Spätmoderne. Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1999
    Assmann, Aleida, und Heidrun Friese (Ed.). Identitäten. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1998
    Hall, Stuart, and P. du Gay (Eds.). Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage, 1996
    Marquard, Odo, und Karlheinz Stierle (Ed.). Identität. München: Fink, 1979
    Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell, 1978
    Foucault, Michel. L'histoire de la sexualité. Paris: Gallimard, 1976
    O'Malley, Andrew. The Making of the Modern Child: Children's Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth-Century. New York: Routledge, 2003
    Brown, Marilyn R. (Ed.). Picturing Children: Constructions of childhood between Rousseau and Freud. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002
    Heywood, Colin. A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001
    Tadmor, Noami. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England: Household, kinship, and patronage. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001
    Barney, Richard A. Plots of Enlightenment: Education and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999
    Flint, Christopher. Family Fictions: Narrative and Domestic Relations in Britain, 1688-1798. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998
    Higonnet, Anne. Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998
    Hilton, Mary, Styles Morag, and Watson Victor (Eds.). Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600-1900. London: Routledge, 1997
    Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500. London and New York, 1995
    Steward, James (Ed.). The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood, 1730-1830. Berkeley: University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives., 1995
    Jackson, Mary. Engines for Instruction, Mischief and Magic: Children's Literature in England from its Beginnings to 1839. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989
    Summerfield, Geoffrey. Fantasy and Reason: Children's Literature in the Eighteenth-Century. London: Methuen, 1984
    Pickering, Samuel. John Locke and Children's Books in Eighteenth-Century England. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1981
    Stone, Lawrence. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977
    Ariès, Philippe. L'enfant at la vie familiale sous l'ancien régime. Paris, 1960
    Carter, Philip. Man and the Emergence of Polite Society, Britain 1660-1800. Harlow: Pearson, 2001
    Porter, Roy. Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World. London: Penguin, 2000
    Bermingham, Ann, and John Brewer (Eds.). The Consumption of Culture 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text. London: Routledge, 1995
    Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Trans. Thomas Burger with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989
    McKendrick, Neil, John Brewer, and J.H. Plumb. The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England. London: Hutchinson, 1983
    O'Connell, Sheila. The Popular Print in England. London: The British Museum, 1999
    Mackie, Erin. Market à la Mode: Fashion , Commodity, and Gender in The Tatler and The Spectator. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1997
    Schmidt, Siegfried J. Die Selbstorganisation des Sozialsystems Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1989
Journal Articles
    Rodriguez, Catherine M. (Ed.). "Aging and Identity: An Eighteenth-Century Perspective". Journal of Aging and Identity, 1999. 4.2
    Benzaquén, Adriana S. "Childhood, Identity, and Human Science in the Enlightenment. History Workshop Journal, 57 (Spring), 2004. 34-57.
    Luhmann, Niklas. "Das Kind als Medium der Erziehung. Soziologische Aufklärung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1995. 6. 204-28.
    Burdan, Judith. "Girls must be seen and heard: Domestic surveillance in Sarah Fielding's The Governess". Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 1994. 8-14.
    Jordanova, Ludmilla. "New Worlds for Children in the Eighteenth Century: Problems of Historical Interpretation". History of Human Sciences, 1990. 3.1. 69-83.
    Kramnick, Isaac. "Children's Literature and Bougeois Ideology: Observations on Culture and Industrial Capitalism in the Late Eighteenth Century". Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 1983. 12. 163-77.
    Plumb, J.H. "The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England. Past and Present, 1975. 67. 64-95.
Book Articles
    Bourdieu, Pierre. The biographical illusion, repr. In Identity: A Reader. Ed(s). Eds. Paul du Gay, Jessica Evans, and Peter Redman. London: Sage, 2000. 299-305.
    Hall, Stuart. "The Questions of Cultural Identity. Modernity and its Future. Ed(s). Eds. Stuart Hall, David Held, and Tony McGrew. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995. 273-325.
    Jacobson-Widding, Anita (Ed.). "Personal and Socio-Cultural Identity. Acta Univ.Ups., Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology. Uppsala: Almqvist&Wiksell, 1983. 5
    Shavit, Zohar. "Cultural notions and literary boundaries: On the creation on the systemic opposition between children's literature and adult literature in the eighteenth century". Proceedings of the XIIth Congress of the International Comparative Literature Society, 1990. 416-422.

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The database was created by the participants of the Network 'Mediating Identities in 18th Century England' and will be updated on a regular basis.
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