Childness or Child-Less: Signs Taken for Wonders

  • David RuddEmail author
Original Paper


This article argues that there are several problems with Peter Hollindale’s concept, “childness.” First, it is suggested that the term not only has too much semantic latitude, but that its definitional attributes are themselves incompatible, pulling in different directions: from the pragmatic and empirical to the more figurative and aspirational. Linked with this point is a second one: that despite Hollindale’s avowed claim that his term is “extremely flexible, and … historically, socially and culturally determined” (pp. 76–77), it ultimately defers to a biological essentialism. Thirdly, and as a result of this, the term fails adequately to address many key issues in children’s literature criticism, despite Hollindale’s otherwise exemplary and perceptive readings of texts. Finally, it is suggested that the key issue, of how childhood is seen to be constructed, confers on the child an unwarranted voluntarism that neglects questions of power (i.e. of socialisation and colonisation) probed by others, resulting in a rather Romantic conceptualisation of the child—and, indeed, of “childness.”


Childness Constructivism Childhood Romantic Essentialism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BoltonBoltonUK

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