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Title: The child and authority in contemporary literature and critical culture
Author: Dean, Dominic
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9817
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores representations of the child in contemporary literature, culture, and criticism. The authors and texts considered are primarily British and post-1979, but the thesis situates them within the context of post-war cultural history, and particularly in relation to changes to perceptions of the ‘post-war’ itself in the 1980s. From these texts, representations of the child that dramatise the child’s entrance into authority as a problem for the adult, one characterised by symbolic or actual violence, ground a case that the child is required to correlate with a recognisable image of himself, one that actually limits his political potential, as the condition for his political or aesthetic representation. Violence against the child is the all-pervasive threat for failure to meet this condition. Reading these depictions of violence towards the child, notably by Alan Hollinghurst, Ian McEwan, Peter Ackroyd, and Kazuo Ishiguro, this thesis builds upon existing critical work on the child as a current and continuing problem for authority. The theoretical framework derives from cultural history, from the political theory of Hannah Arendt, and from psychoanalysis, particularly as mediated through contemporary Queer Studies. This range positions literary authors as sometimes mediating between psychoanalytic understandings of the child and the political use of the child as representation of the future, a connection already central to the work of seminal contemporary theorists such as Lee Edelman. The thesis argues that we face a historically specific and psychoanalytically resonant problem of the child and authority: a problem demanding attention to the way we read the child, and with broader implications for reading as the practice of literary analysis and interpretation (one with, as we shall find, a complicated relation to how political authorities require particular ‘readings’ of the child). Several texts discussed here constitute not only uncanny versions of cultural history, but also interventions against their own reading. These dramatise and resist a pronounced tendency to demand that the child becomes available for recognition, as the condition for its political and aesthetic representation, with violence ensuing for the child who refuses to meet this condition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature