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Title: As if : childhood as a metaphor : a psychoanalytic examination of twentieth century texts depicting childhood in the garden and the school
Author: De Rijke, Victoria
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2000
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As If/Childhood as Metaphor takes as its critical method a kind of over-determined 'performative' dialectic: the presentation and discussion of diverse yet interrelated ideas without privileging one above the other in the light of a principle, rather than the quest for a single proof, or truth. The principle is that childhood is peculiarly accessible to metaphoric representation, where it features as 'unique experiences accessible to adults only as knowledge and memory', and the discussion illuminates how metaphor serves this purpose with reference to selected texts. The objective is to test each reading as a new dialectical experience, employing psychoanalytic theory also as a dialectic. The Introduction examines metaphor and literary analysis as critical method in two parts. Part 1. presents a defence of the application of psychoanalytic theory which has developed 'grammars' with which to comprehend the human psyche, of which metaphor is one of central significance, and where in analysis, the notion of transference may fruitfully be applied. Part 2., via a survey of diverse texts, examines the discourses of childhood and children's literature with the objective of questioning fixed categories. Chapter one, part 1, sets a context for childhood figured in the garden, and parts 2. and 3., through close readings of The Secret Garden, The Go-Between and Tom's Midnight Garden, suggest that metaphors of time suspension, development in articulacy and psychic growth demonstrate the child aspect of the adult. Chapter two, part 1, with Kindergarten as a bridging text and exemplification of the 'change by conflict' of the dialectic, sets a context for childhood figured in school, and parts 2. and 3., through close readings of The Pupil, The Rainbow, A Kestrel for a Knave and Matilda, argue that metaphors of inarticulacy, unreality, combat and damage, demonstrate the adult aspect of the child. Chapter three links the 'erotics' of the transference situation (where the analyst and patient can 'bind' together intimately), to the sexual curiosity of the child and Cupid figure. The metaphor of the putti figure, in an upward or downward flight, exemplifies the movement made by the author and reader in reading metaphors of childhood in the garden and school. The upward flight of eros or libido is sited in the garden and the downward fall of thanatos in the school. These transferential spaces, when depicting childhood, are bound by metaphoric interpretation, including a psychoanalytic sense of unreal time in a school space to a sense of the real to which the self can retreat in a garden. The Conclusion reflects how a mixed mode of reading and interpreting representations of childhood which incorporates historical, literary and psychoanalytic models, can generate new insights into metaphors of childhood, in performative convergence. An over-determined dialectic, like a dream, presents material in imaginatively linked circles, or associative chains of connotation, where some metaphors such as 'green' (disguising highly complex transference material through apparently naive childhood motifs), have turned into culture: partly revealing, partly concealing a retrospective Englishness bound to deferred maturity, an innocence at risk, emblematic of cultural life and death.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available