Advertisement

The Vanity of Childhood: Constructing, Deconstructing, and Destroying the Child in the Novel of the 1840s

Chapter

Abstract

In an examination of the textual creation of the child we might begin by asking why the 1840s is a fertile moment historically for such a study of representation. There seem to be five main considerations which should be taken into account here, and we might begin with Jacqueline Rose’s remark that the reappearence of the notion of innocence on the cultural agenda seems always to point to the ‘trouble and murkiness’ which engenders it.1 It was certainly a time of the social, political and intellectual stirring up of muddy waters, and murkiness there was in abundance as the debate concerning science and religion began to undermine man’s notion of himself as central and vital to the world. Darwinian theories made the Victorians feel ‘infinitely isolated’ as John Fowles noted in 1968:

By the 1860’s the great iron structures of their philosophies, religions and social stratifications were already beginning to look dangerously corroded to the more perspicacious.2

Keywords

Binary Opposition Innocent Child Cultural Agenda Textual Creation Victorian Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Jacqueline Rose, The Case of Peter Pan (London: Macmillan, 1984; 1994), p. xii.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quoted in George H. Ford (ed.), The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2, ‘The Victorian Age’ (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 935.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Kathleen Tillotson, Novels of the Eighteen-Forties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 107.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, Children’s Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 10.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Phillipe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    N.N. Feltes, Modes of Production of Victorian Novels (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 3.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), p. 225.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Andrew Miller, Novels Behind Glass: Commodity, Culture, and Victorian Narrative (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 15.
    Steven Marcus, ‘Language into Structure: Pickwick Revisited’, Daedelus 101 (1972), p. 189, p. 202 n. 4.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Michael Wheeler, Death and the Future Life in Victorian Literature and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 112.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    All references in the text will be to Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972);Google Scholar
  12. Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son (1848) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970);Google Scholar
  13. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850) (New York and London: Norton, 1990);Google Scholar
  14. W.M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848) (Oxford: The World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Lesnik-Oberstein, p. 10. Or as James R. Kincaid (Child-Loving: The Erotic Child in Victorian Culture, New York and London: Routledge, 1992) puts it in speaking of Ariès’s de-naturing of the child: ‘What the child is matters less than what we think it is and just why we think that way’ (p. 62).Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1973), p. 25.Google Scholar
  17. 34.
    John Kucich, Excess and Restraint in the Novels of Charles Dickens (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  18. 42.
    See Sara Thornton, ‘Becky Sharp: le clignotement d’une présence’ (Becky Sharp: the Intermittence of Presence), Q/W/E/R/T/Y, 2 (October 1992), pp. 119–28 and ‘Icônes et iconoclasmes dans l’oeuvre de Thackeray’ (‘Icons and Iconoclasms in the Work of Thackeray’), Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, 35 (April 1992), pp. 217–31.Google Scholar
  19. See also Sara Thornton, ‘Thackeray et l’illusion comique’, Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, 38 (October 1993), pp. 71–86.Google Scholar
  20. 43.
    For further studies of the ironic and illusory nature of language and narrative in Thackeray’s texts as well as the vanitas theme see also Maurice Chrétien, ‘Miroirs de Vanity Fair’ (‘Mirrors of Vanity Fair’), Etudes Anglaises, XLV, 4 (1992), pp. 424–31;Google Scholar
  21. Ina Ferris, ‘Realism and the Discord of Ending: The Example of Thackeray’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 38 (1983), pp. 289–303;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Robert P. Fletcher, ‘The Dandy and the Fogy: Thackeray and the Aesthetics/Ethics of the Literary Pragmatist’, ELH, 58 (1991), pp. 383–404;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Peter K. Garrett, The Victorian Multiplot Novel: Studies in Dialogical Form (Yale: Yale University Press, 1980);Google Scholar
  24. Barbara Hardy, Forms of Feeling in Victorian Fiction (London: Peter Owen, 1985);Google Scholar
  25. Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett (Baltimore/ London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1974);Google Scholar
  26. Lisa Jadwin, ‘The Seductiveness of Female Duplicity in Vanity Fair’, Studies in English Literature, 32 (1992), pp. 663–87;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981);Google Scholar
  28. Robert E. Lougy, ‘Vision and Satire: The Warped Looking Glass in Vanity Fair’, PMLA, 90 (1975), pp. 266–9;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Juliet McMaster, Thackeray: the Major Novels (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1976);Google Scholar
  30. J. Hillis Miller, Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  31. 45.
    Alain Tapié, ‘Le pouvoir, les richesses, la collection’, Les Vanités dans la peinture au XVIIème siècle (Paris: Musée du Petit Palais, 1990).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations