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Title: The uses of innocence : the meanings and uses of images of childhood in the press, taking 2001 as a case study
Author: Northam, Jean Ann
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is a case study, presented as a contribution to the theorisation of the visual construction of childhood, in opposition to adulthood. The research involved the semiological analysis of all the images of childhood published in three broadsheet newspapers throughout 200 I, comprising approximately 1400 images. The analyses focussed upon the meanings of the images and the uses to which they were put in the angling, ideological inflection, and narrativisation of the advertisement or press item. The research draws upon literature relating to photographic realism, the construction of meaning in photographs, and the history of visual representations of childhood from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. It was found that images of childhood played a major part in the development and universalization of the modem construction of childhood as innocent and, in key respects, distinct from adulthood. The findings are developed over three chapters. It was found that the tropes used to construct ideal, innocent childhood could be manipulated to produce narratives of threatened childhood and victimhood, and further manipulated to figure a transgressive childhood in which the adult-child binary has been breached. These variations are further explored in relation to conflict, disaster, and crime, an exploration in which childhood is viewed as a terrain for the mapping of hopeful futures, victimhood, the aetiology of criminality, and threats to cultural survival. In the context of debates about the imminent demise of childhood innocence, the themes of sexuality, consumerism, and knowingness are examined for ways in which they present threats to the adult-child binary. The thesis concludes with further analyses of the representational functions of childhood and their implications for adult and children, with reference to the uses of images of childhood in myth-making, in representing goodness, and in the envisaging of dystopian futures. The merits and shortcomings of the research are reviewed, and areas for further enquiry identified. Some updating is included in view of the passage of time since the collection of images in 2001.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available