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In this study, the author takes as the starting point the idea of childhood and its history which, she argues, has much less to do with actual children than with adult concepts of the self and the way they have developed since the end of the 18th century. Using the perspectives of social and cultural history, psychoanalysis and the history of psychology - and the history of a child who never actually existed, the strange, disturbed child Mignon from Goethe's "Wilhelmeister" - the book discusses a search for the self, for a past that is long and gone, and the ways in which, over the last 200 hundred years, the lost object/essence/vision has come to assume the shape and form of a child.
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Carolyn Steedman is the author of Landscape for a Good Woman and a Reader in the Centre for Social History at the University of Warwick.Review:
Strange Dislocations illuminates several intriguing byways of Victorian popular culture. It also casts some provocative light on 20th-century thinking. Ms. Steedman's most interesting pages discuss how Sigmund Freud (a Victorian, after all) drew on contemporary notions of childhood, littleness and loss in constructing his view of the unconscious, 'the child at the heart of the theory, as well as at the heart of the psychoanalytic body.
--Walter Kendrick (New York Times Book Review)
Carolyn Steedman's ambitious study maps literary, scientific, and social discourses of the nineteenth century that used the figure of the child to express the interior self...Strange Dislocations is an exciting and engaging book in its range, its methodology, and its subject matter. Its explorations of the psychic investments adults have in figures of the child, particularly the vulnerable girl-child at once graceful and inarticulate, provide valuable insights for those who wish to understand how nineteenth-century writers understood the child and themselves in relation to the child. Its depiction of historiography and psychoanalysis as methodologically similar shows admirable self-awareness...[This book] is an important part of an ongoing debate about the best ways to analyze hegemony on the behalf of the historically voiceless.
--Naomi J. Wood (Albion)
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