Recollecting childhood: writing the child at play

Nelson, E. L. (2020) Recollecting childhood: writing the child at play. In: Deszcz-Tryhubczak, B. and Kalla, I. (eds.) Rulers of Literary Playgrounds: Politics of Intergenerational Play in Children’s Literature. Series: Children's literature and culture. Routledge: New York ; London, pp. 137-150. ISBN 9780367501433 (doi: 10.4324/9781003048985-12)

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Play anthologies participate in children literature’s fictionalization of childhood and play. This chapter examines both Gomme (1898) and the Opies’ (1959) opposing methods of collecting children’s games in relation to the concept of children, childhood and intergenerational play. It problematizes the ethnographic assumptions that underlie earlier methods of collection. “Recollected” moments of play verge on the imaginary. Albeit rooted in experience, they are romanticized and dated through nostalgia. Play is felt to be a remembered phenomenon rather than a malleable construct and this creates intergenerational tension in discussions of what play ought to be. These anthologies can be positioned alongside many classic children’s literature texts to be read both as non-fiction counterparts and critically as constructions of childhood and play. The ethnographers are writing the child at play and, in doing so, are re-imagining and reconstructing the real child they observe into a fictionalized child. Nostalgic characterization of play can be evidenced throughout children’s literature from J. M Barrie to Roald Dahl; childhood is characterized by non-participants. Play anthologies are collections of multimodal children’s texts, arguably a form of children’s literature. Exploring how these texts are depicted through adult lenses raises questions of children’s literature, childhood, authorship, representation and their relationship to intergenerational play.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Nelson, Dr Elizabeth
Authors: Nelson, E. L.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Published Online:30 October 2020

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