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Shadows of Childhood: The Emergence of the Child in the Visual and Literary Culture of the French Long-Nineteenth Century

HANDLER, SOPHIE,RACHEL (2017) Shadows of Childhood: The Emergence of the Child in the Visual and Literary Culture of the French Long-Nineteenth Century. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines the evolutionary journey of the concepts of the ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ during the French long-nineteenth century, as expressed through the period’s literary and visual culture. It analyses in what ways these concepts reflect a ‘shadowland’ existence in this period, and in turn how the shadow metaphor symbolises both the child itself and its complex, changeable condition. The shadow metaphor not only characterises various concepts associated with children and childhood, but extends to represent the nature of the study itself. The long-nineteenth century forms a stretch of ‘shadowland’ reflective of the abstruseness of the topic which lies between pre-Enlightenment ‘darkness’ and the illuminating ‘light’ of the twentieth century. The thesis focuses on this crucial though oft overlooked developmental period between the scholarly inception of children and childhood in the late Enlightenment, to their establishment as creative blueprints in twentieth-century modernism. Supported by a socio-historical grounding, an exploration of the work of Baudelaire, Hugo, Rousseau, Proust, Redon, Degas, Renoir, and Loïe Fuller, amongst others, enables us to ‘unpack’ the ways in which this shadowy quality gave rise to not only a curiosity to explore the fascinating ‘other’ of the child and its condition in this complex epoch, but also a proclivity to explain and control it. Investigating the rhetoric of children and childhood, considering their artistic and literary significance at this time, the thesis both accounts for how writers and artists reflected upon childhood, and explores the process by which children and childhood were harnessed by intellectual and creative endeavours. Various as the case studies prove, they can all be united in their fulfilment of a regression towards and reimagining of one’s childhood and personhood, like a re-engagement with the ‘shadow child’ within, in the face of the disturbing ephemerality of self alongside the destabilising onset of modernity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Art History, Childhood, French Literature, French Culture, Family, Long-Nineteenth Century, Visual Culture, Education, French Art, Modernity, Material Culture, Modernism, Symbolism, Primitivism, Gender, Selfhood, Shadows
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Apr 2018 08:28

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