The ‘modern child’ and psychoanalysis are about the same age, and would seem to have similar concerns. In 1900 Ellen Kay (1909) declared that it was the ‘century of the child’, just a few years after Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) had launched psychoanalysis, provocatively claiming that we should look to childhood to understand many psychological problems. For Freud, this new science, psychoanalysis — the scientific study (analysis) of the mind (psyche) — involved probing regions that lay beneath what might seem a sanguine surface; this was the realm of the Unconscious, which Freud regarded as his main discovery. It was seen as an area of the mind radically unknowable since we are barred access to it: it is repressed. So we only know of it indirectly: through such things as slips of the tongue, behavioural ‘tics’ and dreams, although even the latter material is disguised. Given psychoanalysis’s stress on the significance of the early years, when a child must adjust to its parents and the wider culture, it is hardly surprising that popular culture simplified Freud’s ideas, such that, as Adam Phillips (2000: 42) notes, the figure of the child became ‘the unconscious live’, where ‘you could see it in action’. It was but a short step to see children’s books as representing such candid insights, too — and being interpreted in such terms (e.g. Phillips, 1972).
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Psychoanalytic Approaches to Children’s Literature
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number