Knowing Children
The Modern Child in the Field of Culture

English 9056, Fall 2010

Dr. Steven Bruhm

The University of Western Ontario

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has argued that, in the twentieth century, the closet is not a superseded regime of knowing, and that subjectivity is still very much organized around the axes of knowledge and ignorance.  If that’s true, then it is “the child” that best reflects the problem of closets, for it is the child around which our culture’s most potent assumptions about knowledge and ignorance take their force.  This course examines the figure of the modern child in theory, literature and film.  At the heart of the course are questions of epistemology and its discontents, sexuality and its symptoms, innocence and its uses.  We will look at the child constructed and disciplined by psychoanalysis, the child as phantasmatic screen for adult preoccupations, the child in critical theory and the child as critical theory—that is, the way in which this remarkably arbitrary category underpins so much intellectual machinery of the contemporary period.


(still under construction)

September 15

Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass


James, What Maisie Knew


What Maisie Knew; Freud, “Infantile Sexuality”

October 6

James, The Turn of the Screw


Barrie, Peter Pan; James Kincaid (?)


LeRoy, The Bad Seed; Kelleher, “How to Do Things With Perversion”


Nabokov, Lolita

November 3

Lolita; Stockton, “What Drives the Sexual Child?”


Lessing, The Fifth Child


Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse


Edwin Mullhouse; Kristeva, “Adolescence, A Syndrome of Ideality”

December 1

Glaser, Birth; Adam Phillips?


Grimsley, Dream Boy

Professor Steven Bruhm
University College 378
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7
519.661.2111 ext. 85837