Jenkins, Henry. (1998) “Introduction: Childhood Innocence and Other Modern Myths.”


ARGUMENT – Childhood innocence is a myth that takes away children’s agency.  It fits into adult nostalgic ideals of childhood and allows adults to control children or use them as pawns in political debates.

SUMMARY

Jenkins’ text serves as the introduction for The Children’s Culture Reader (1998). He summarizes the literature in three areas: 1. The meanings children carry for adults, 2. Historical changes in understanding children and adults, and 3. Children as cultural and social agents.

  1. The meanings childhood carries for adults
    • Childhood as a pure, innocent, natural state
    • This is assumed to be universal across history and cultures
  2. Historical evolution of the child
    • Summarizes Aries and the spread of enlightenment ideals of childhood (eg. Rousseau)
    • Summarzies Zelizer – as children became less value economically (no longer working), they became more valued sentimentally
    • Advertisers played upon parents concerns for their children to sell new products
    • There are very few records left by children – difficult to know if parents were strict or permissive
    • Changes in our perceptions of childhood are gradual – not revolutionary.  They occur due to global shifts in institutions and local shifts in individual family practices
  3. Children as cultural and social agents
    • Children are participants in the process of defining their identities
    • Children can resist, transform or redefine adult choices and priorities – sour candies, Nick Nation, “wild boys”, teen rebellion

THEORY/METHOD

This is mostly written in the style of a literature review

CRITIQUE/NOTES

Prout 2008 provides a more useful historical overview

Section on children as cultural and social agents (pgs 27-30) is useful for understanding how children subvert and resist adult/institutional authority.  Also a useful quote that could be applied to my research on the juvenile press:

“The cheaper they are in price, the more cultural goods are likely to reflect children’s own aesthetic and cultural sensibilities.  Materials children can purchase with their allowance (such as candy, bubblegum cards, or comic books) are less likely to bear the heavy imprint of adult gatekeepers than high-cost items (book and videos) parents purchase as gifts” (pg. 28).

 

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