Thursday, December 2, 2010

Children and Childhood in the English Renaissance

Despite the fact that the terms “child” and “childhood” have inspired scholars of various disciplines and ages, the representation of childhood in the time of the English Renaissance remains an under-investigated topic. The reasons for this oversight are manifold. Although Philip Ariès’s thesis that childhood was discovered in the eighteenth century has meanwhile been revised (see, for instance, Orme and Hanwalt on the Middle Ages, or Pollock on the Early Modern Period), comprehensive studies of childhood in the Renaissance are still comparatively scarce. This is the more deplorable since the Renaissance can be regarded as a transitional period between the Middle Ages and the increasing influence of Puritanism in the seventeenth century, with its focus on childhood as a crucial period in spiritual life. In fact, childhood is a central topic of Renaissance literature. The dramatic works of Shakespeare are a case in point: the parent-child relationship, for instance, is of prominent significance in many of the Bard’s principal tragedies. In Romeo and Juliet and King Lear it is precisely this relationship that stands in the core of the tragedy causing the ultimate end of the protagonists. Besides, the concept of childhood was also a part of the state apparatus. Elizabeth I was often represented as “the mother of the nation” and a pelican who feeds her subjects, respectively children with her own flesh. While scholars have frequently focused on the maternal side of such metaphors, the implications of childhood are yet understudied. Last but not least, one could think of the emergence of numerous books on education and teaching methods for children by Mulcaster or Ascham who certainly develop their own concepts of childhood and adolescence.
The international symposium at the University of Siegen therefore seeks to explore a wide range of questions related to the representation of childhood in this widely neglected period in childhood studies. Papers are invited on various topics dealing with the representation of children and the development of the concept “childhood” in the Renaissance. Suggested topics include:
- Representation of Children in literature, the visual arts and music
- Conceptualizations of Childhood (e.g. in philosophy, rhetoric, science)
- Childcare (medical advice, handbooks, nursing, swaddling etc.)
- Educational issues
- Children’s literature, toys and games
- Family relationships
- Childhood and religion
- Royal children
Presented papers should cover about 20 minutes. Selected papers will be published in the conference proceedings. Please send your proposal of 250-350 words length to: by 28 February 2011.