Childhood, Literature and Science: Fragile Subjects, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Childhood, Literature and Science

Fragile Subjects, 1st Edition

Edited by Jutta Ahlbeck, Päivi Lappalainen, Kati Launis, Kirsi Tuohela


244 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138282407
pub: 2017-11-16
SAVE ~$32.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315270784
pub: 2017-11-13
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


How do we understand, imagine and remember childhood? In what ways do cultural representations and scientific discourses meet in their ways of portraying children?

Childhood, Literature and Science aims to answer these questions by tracing how images of childhood(s) and children in Western modernity are entangled with notions of innocence and fragility, but also with sin and evilness. Indeed, this interdisciplinary collection investigates how different child figures emerge or disappear in imaginative and social representations, in the memories of adult selves, and in expert knowledge. Questions about childhood in Western modernity, culture and science are also addressed through insightful analysis of a variety of materials from the Enlightenment age to the present day – such as fiction, life narratives, visual images, scientific texts and public writings.

Analysing childhood as a discursive construction, Childhood, Literature and Science will appeal to scholars as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in fields such as: Childhood Studies, History, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Literature and Sociology of the Family.


Childhood, Literature, and Science convincingly points to the variety of ways in which children and childhood are something highly evasive, multifaceted, and dependent upon time, space, and the available assortment of discursive categories. This impressive compilation of studies from scholars in the humanities and social sciences gives us new important insights of childhood, and contributes to the interdisciplinary field of Childhood Studies.

By stretching the analyses from the Enlightenment until the present day, across science, literature, life writings, and social policy, a complex narrative of western childhood is unfolded. Authors examine children’s literature, psychological testing situations, media debates on children who commit crimes, debates on reproductive technologies, autobiographical fiction, photographs of child patients, and much more, and the reader will be highly rewarded. It becomes clear that the category we in our everyday lives call ‘children’ carries many different meanings and ‘layers’. This volume also gives us a badly-needed readiness for action as citizens. As the editors write: "The notion of childhood is always, at the same time, a notion of adulthood".

Mats Börjesson, Professor and Director of the Section for Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University, Sweden

The rich essays collected in Childhood, Literature, and Science demonstrate that research grounded in language analysis and literary criticism has become indispensable for historicising our sense of childhood and youth. The discourses of childhood cannot be captured with essentialist dualisms between purity/innocence and order/discipline, any more than the figures of childhood will come into focus by repeating the obvious truth that childhood is culturally constructed. Readers seeking something more robust will find within these pages thick descriptions and close readings of ideal, subversive, normal, sick, transformative, evil, victimized, and lost childhoods that crossed national boundaries and extended over long periods into the living present.

Patrick J. Ryan, President of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, Kings University College at Western University Canada

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Child Figures as Fragile Subjects

Jutta Ahlbeck, Päivi Lappalainen, Kati Launis and Kirsi Tuohela

PART I: The Ideal and Subversive Child

Päivi Lappalainen: Child Figures in Läsning för barn by Zacharias Topelius

Maria Laakso: The Naughty Child in the Early Twentieth Century: Subversive Child Figures and Humor in Jalmari Finne’s Children’s Literature

Jenniliisa Salminen:Child Adults in Soviet Children’s Literature – Lazar Lagin’s The Old Man Hottabych

PART II: The "Normal" Child

Kati Launis: The Birth of the Modern Child in Finnish Literary Realism

Karin Zetterqvist Nelson: The Changing Construction of the Child Figure in Literature on Child Psychotherapy in Sweden 1945–1975

Shaul Bar-Haim:The Child's "Position": The Concept of Childhood in Interwar Psychoanalysis

PART III: The Sick and Disabled Child

Maria Nikolajeva:Visible, Audible and Sentient: Cognitive-Affective Engagement with Disability in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Leticia Fernández-Fontecha: Little Patients: Photography and the Configuration of the Sick Child in Victorian Britain

Karen Lowton:The End of the ‘Experiment’: Positioning Children with Severe Liver Disease as Potential Survivors of Pioneering Liver Transplantation

Sarah Hardstaff: "With special obligations": Constructions of Young Adulthood and Caregiving in The Road to Memphis and Seventeen Against the Dealer

PART IV: The Evil and Victimised Child

Eleanor F W Betts: Victim, Monster, Child or Murderer? Representations of Children Who Killed in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers

Jutta Ahlbeck: The Nervous Child and the Disease of Modernity

Ewa Maciejewska-Mroczek &Magdalena Radkowska-Walkowicz:Between Monster Child and Innocent Baby: Managing Fear and Hope in Polish Debates on In Vitro Fertilisation

PART V: The Lost Child

Kirsi Tuohela: The Rise of Inner Subjectivity: Childhood in Early Nineteenth-Century Finnish Autobiographies

Roberta Garrett: "A terrible deal for the western parent": Neoliberal Mothering Versus the Teenager

Saara Jäntti: Children and Childhoods in Women’s Madness Narratives



About the Editors

Jutta Ahlbeck is a sociologist and Senior Researcher at the Department of Culture, History and Philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Päivi Lappalainen is Professor of Finnish Literature at the University of Turku, Finland

Kati Launis is Adjunct Professor of Finnish Literature at the University of Turku, Finland

Kirsi Tuohela is Adjunct Professor of Cultural History at the University

of Turku, Finland

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Sociology

This series presents cutting-edge developments and debates within the field of sociology. It provides a broad range of case studies and the latest theoretical perspectives, while covering a variety of topics, theories and issues from around the world. It is not confined to any particular school of thought.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General