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Child/animal: it's the `real' thing.

In the opening chapter of Steve Baker's Picturing the Beast it is claimed: The unwritten priorities of the culture enable even that which is in full view to be rendered effectively invisible--or if still visible to be drained, by common consent, of any significance. The dominant cultural view that the subject of animals is essentially trivial, or is associated principally with memories of childhood, is a clear case in point. (1)

The main point of this excerpt is that, on the contrary, animals are significant. The text notes, though without commenting on it, an association of the animal with `memories of childhood' and an implied equation of this with triviality, but the attempt to answer the question of how the subject of animals `is to be approached if it is to be rendered serious and worthy of attention' (p. 8) does not extend to asking why the animal and the child together occupy this position of triviality and non-significance, or insignificance. Picturing the Beast challenges the association of the animal with the trivial but seems content to allow `memories of childhood' to remain so, indeed its argument tacitly rests on a distinction of the animal from the child precisely in order to proclaim the former as by contrast `serious and worthy of attention'.

According to the subtitle, Baker's text concerns `animals, identity and representation' and asks: `Above all, why is it that our ideas of the animal--perhaps more than any other set of ideas--are the ones which enable us to frame and express ideas about human identity?' (p. 6). Given this programme, I would argue that it is not unreasonable to expect that Baker's work would engage with the question of why the child (and specifically `memories of childhood') and the animal should be positioned in relation to each other and be used to comment on and/or explain each other. Though Picturing the Beast does not venture to address these questions, interestingly this is not an isolated instance in this text of simultaneous statement of, and silence on, the child's relation to the animal: `My best friends often affectionately addressed their two-year-old daughter as `Bear'; they did it so unselfconsciously that at the time it somehow seemed almost impertinent to ask them why' (p. 4). That there is no attempt to address the questions inevitably raised by the inclusion of these moments in the text, is itself instructive. What Picturing the Beast alerts us to is how the child and the animal may function in parallel ways in the discourses that deploy them, and in discourses that engage with the meanings generated by these two words.

The first aspect of this that I wish to discuss is the way both the child and the animal are frequently addressed by those texts which treat of their cultural `representation'. Harriet Ritvo's seminal work on the representation of animals in the Victorian period is a case in point. (2) The study is introduced with the explanation that the different chapters `present interpretations based firmly on texts produced by people who dealt with real animals' (p. 4), and thus the work is justified on the basis of its purported proximity to, and investigation of, the `real'. The Animal Estate proceeds by discounting `the large literature of animal fable and fantasy' on the grounds that it `has little connection to real creatures'. What is immediately evident from this is that there is no sense in Ritvo's text of a cause for hesitation over the matter of being able to identify what the real that is being represented may be. Nor is the question of the discursivity of historical documents one that is raised at this point. A problem arises for this position, as Steve Baker suggests, if we acknowledge that `culture does not allow unmediated access to animals themselves' (p. 10). But for Baker too, there seems to be a confusion over this issue at the heart of Picturing the Beast, for the text declares that `the animal is necessarily a construction, a representation, and not an accessible essence or reality' (p. 5). The apparently redundant pairing of `construction' with `representation' testifies to an equivocation that finally undermines the larger implications of the statement, and the problem here is that the use of the word `representation' does after all imply a discernible reality out there to be re-presented. This becomes more readily apparent as the text continues:

Animals themselves, living animals, `real' animals: where are they in all this? The difficult idea of the real animal is one which will need repeatedly to be addressed as this book progresses. For now it's enough to acknowledge that cultural history and cultural anthropology, like many other areas of contemporary theory, are loath to draw a sharp distinction between representation and reality, or between the symbolic and the real. Such distinctions are usually at a cost to the former term in each pair. (p. 10)

This leaves the unmistakable impression that there is after all a `real' that could be distinguishable from constructions of it, if contemporary theorists were not too afraid to speak of it because it would make their area of interest (the cultural and the symbolic) look trivial. I would argue rather that these `contemporary theorists' (3) cannot logically make such a distinction, because to do so would be to claim an undemonstrable authority and privileged knowledge. In addition to this, though (as Baker argues) the `real' may seem to be privileged by such distinctions, the problem is more specifically that what is privileged as real, or on the grounds of its real-ness, must in the end be (only) construction, but construction with the spurious authority of the `real', which then detracts from the question of whose interests it serves to have such a thing asserted as incontrovertible. The use of the phrase `the idea of the real' suggests something of the nature of the problem in Baker's work, which cannot negotiate the contradiction therein; since the concept of the `real' here is of something that is precisely not concept, idea, or thought, but something that is somehow beyond discourse. Finally, despite the apparent sophistication of his position, Baker wants to hold on to some notion of the `real' animal that animal rights can be committed to; for on what basis can animal rights operate if their construction of the animal isn't the `right', the `true' and the `real' one?

This tendency in work written from an advocacy stand-point becomes even more apparent in Baker's later text The Postmodern Animal: `Animal endorsing art will tend to endorse animal life itself (and may therefore align itself with the work of conservationists, or perhaps of animal advocacy), rather than endorsing cultural constructions of the animal.' (4) Here, `animal life itself' is opposed quite unproblematically to `cultural constructions' in a way that denies the constructedness of what is endorsed by `animal endorsing art' so as to leave us in no doubt that the narrator of this piece knows what `animal life itself ` is, even if we do not. In the following discussion of a piece of work by the artists Olly and Suzi, we find:

A work such as Shark Bite (illus. 3), exhibited along with the ragged corner ripped off by the shark, spat out and subsequently recovered, attests to the presence or existence of the living animal. [...] It is only the painting as object, as thing, marked by the animal itself, which can indelibly record the immediacy and `truth' of the encounter. [...] It hardly matters what the painting looks like. The key thing is its status as the mark of the real, the wound, the touch: `by the end of the trip this paper's been transformed from its clinical state into a document, it's like a piece of parchment, a genuine artifact of the event.' (p. 13)

I am here at a loss to explain why truth is graced with inverted commas at all. Everything else in this paragraph attests to the conviction that such a truth claim can be made. The means by which the shark is persuaded to `interact' with the painting are never in question as discourse (the inclusion of blood with the acrylic paint), nor in any serious way are the notions of `document' or `genuine artifact'. The kind of construction of the shark in play here does not seem to be at issue (i.e. its construction as predatory, dangerous, wild, and the constellations of meanings around these) because what we have, or are told we have, is evidence of the animal itself, the real thing.

That something rather similar occurs in the field of children's literature criticism has already been charted by Jacqueline Rose in The Case of Peter Pan (5) and Karin Lesnik-Oberstein in Children's Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child, (6) but lest it be assumed that these critical texts have now been superseded by developments in children's literature criticism, more recent examples from the field suggest the contrary. Such an example would be Peter Hollindale's Signs of Childness in Children's Books, (7) which opens with the claim to be a `clarification' of the meanings that are brought into play when the word `child' is employed. Signs of Childness approaches an exchange between a father and son quoted from Steven Spielberg's Hook thus:

When Peter Banning says `Stop behaving like a child!', he is constructing childhood as a typical set of immature and undesirable behaviours which responsible young persons should abandon. (p. 7)

So far, so good; but the subsequent analysis provided by Signs of Childness returns us to a `real' that is presumed known:

The actual age of the boy he is talking to is disconnected in his mind from the conventional, or theorized age which he associates with his son's behaviour. A `child' in his reproof is not a living boy but a cliche for irresponsible conduct.

Adult auto-speak of disapproval has obscured his awareness of other meanings the word `child' might have, not to mention the fact that he is talking to one. Jack's bright response is therefore devastating. He is indeed a child, by biological definition. (pp. 7-8)

Here the construction is opposed to `the actual age of the boy', to `a living boy' and the `indeed-ness' of Jack's identity as child. Notwithstanding the apparent qualification of all this actuality and `realness' with the phrase `by biological definition' which seems to nod in the direction of acknowledging that Jack's affirmation of himself as child is an alternate construction, Hollindale's text in the end privileges that biological definition as correct. Signs of Childness also appears to know in what the child essentially consists, despite a discussion of two `artificially polarized' positions on the matter, those of `childhood as preparatory and developmental' and `childhood as an autonomous part of life' (pp. 12, 13). The appreciation that these positions are informed by perception, with the repetition of `if we see childhood as', does not, however, seem to give rise to a corresponding doubt of their veracity, or to destabilize the text's confidence in the notions of `enabling a child to be a child' or `valuing childhood for its own sake' (p. 13). Here then, an assertion of the construction of the child recoups the `real child' as the sum of all its constructions, or as something between the two `artificially polarized' positions, which does not therefore undermine either way (or any way) of knowing the child.

Even more recently, Deborah Thacker's `Disdain or Ignorance? Literary Theory and the Absence of Children's Literature' (8) produces another variation stemming from this approach to the `real'. The piece begins by lauding what it describes as contemporary literary criticism's recognition of `the multiplicity of readership' (p. 1) that it perceives in contemporary literary criticism. This multiplicity however, is one from which, it is argued, children's literature and children as readers have been excluded. As a corollary of this, Thacker's evangelizing text argues for their instatement. However, multiplicity is soon lost sight of as the text goes on to declare the difference of children as readers from adults whilst not appreciably acknowledging or recognizing the possibility of difference within the category of `children as readers'. Furthermore, Thacker's text is replete with undifferentiating statements displaying an unproblematized knowledge of children (and adults too) as readers; claiming for example `the tendency of children to re-read the same book many times' (p. 3), `the need of children, or any readers for that matter, to have authority' and `the innate[ness of] desire for narrative' (p. 4). That Thacker's text works to diffuse any challenge to this assumption of an essentializing knowledge is particularly evident in the gloss on Jacques Lacan's essay `The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I', (9) which is explained thus:

There is a gap between the signifier `I' and the actual I of the subject who speaks. The two can never cohere, and it is the desire for an irredeemable wholeness prior to this split that motivates all encounters with language and is continually played out in fiction, which performs a consoling function. (p. 5)

This elides that which within Lacan's text `leads us to oppose any philosophy directly issuing from the cogito' (Lacan, p. 1) and ignores the Freudian-Lacanian challenge to the whole concept of an `actual I' that can be known, and the attendant calling into question of `reality' per se. Thus Thacker reifies the prior wholeness that for Lacan is `entirely phantasmatic' (10) and is thus able to co-opt Lacan's `mirror-stage' as a developmental theory that helps to `explain the pleasures attached to the constant desire to re-experience the text that is typical of children's experience of story' (p. 5).

In addition to this, the developmental construction of children as readers that operates unevenly in Thacker's piece provides one possible answer as to why children's texts and children as readers have not been taken account of in the theoretical literature Thacker refers to. (11) The developmental model produces children as adults-in-waiting, and the post-structuralist focus on multiplicity has not been, I would argue, about recognizing a progressive movement from one subject position to another, but an attempt to acknowledge, however imperfectly, the (co-)existence of mutually exclusive subject positions.

As well as producing the child as developing reader, however, `Disdain or Ignorance' also produces the child as pre-textual (or `semiotic' after Julia Kristeva) and hence operating in opposition to a textual and enculturated adult. Child and book are equated and are envisioned as proto-revolutionary:

If the reader is viewed as a kind of novelistic text, formed by the interweaving voices of heteroglossia, then the work of Bakhtin has great significance for a theory of response that includes children's experience of fiction. The parodic features of his notion of the carnivalesque and its roots in `low' culture, bodily functions, and notions of the `Other', continually challenging notions of bourgeois social conformity, resemble and include those child-like uses of language that repeatedly test the authority of imposed structures of meaning. (p. 10)

Here the text constructs `children as readers' and indeed texts themselves, as uniquely oppositional to a culture, or a text (it is worth noting the way in which `text' occupies two contradictory positions in Thacker's argument) constructed as having a `unifying, monologic, ideologically weighted intention' (p. 12) without acknowledging that the child (and the text) is already necessarily inscribed by the discourse which produces it. Thus `Disdain or Ignorance' is caught in a curious double-bind, also familiar in animal advocacy, of asserting the child as both different and the same as the adult without being able to bring into play a recognition of that contradiction as constitutive of its own construction of the child.

In her essay `Childhood and Textuality', (12) Karin Lesnik-Oberstein notes that in a certain type of history of childhood (13) a polarity can be observed operating between notions of `art'/`ideas' and notions of `reality', where `art'/`ideas' are conceived of textually and therefore open to different interpretations and where, by contrast, `reality' is characterized by emotion `which here means spontaneous and not subject to interpretation' (p. 14). `"Childhood" in these histories', as she observes, `is the stable truth behind the unstable "artistic" text or image, a "reality" which serves to stabilize humanity through capturing the "real" characteristics of children, and the "real" emotional attachment of their parents to them' (pp. 14-15). The effect on children's literature criticism of a similar identification of the `real' with the emotional can be seen in Suzanne Rahn's account of a speech given at the Plenary Session of the Earth Summit in 1992, by Severn Suzuki, the `12-year-old founder of the Environmental Children's Organisation'. (14) Rahn introduces her commentary on Suzuki's speech by drawing a line of continuity and consistency, just as Lesnik-Oberstein has observed, between children of the past and children of the present, a continuity that finds expression in the child's `passionate' and apparently `natural' relationship to nature:

When aware of a threat to the green world and its creatures, children can be its most passionate and committed advocates. Anyone in touch with today's children must be aware of their intense concern for the environment; what may surprise us, looking back at the children of a hundred years ago and more, is that they, too, were ready to be Bird Defenders. In that deep sense, the children have not changed. (p. 165)

This of course obscures the social and historical factors, only partially laid out elsewhere in Rahn's essay, that produce this alliance of `the child' and `nature' both `now' and `then'. Similarly Rahn's discussion of Suzuki's speech focuses on its emotional quality in a way that excludes any possibility of appreciating it as rhetorical construction. After quoting a part of the speech, Rahn observes, `This child is angry and afraid; she knows, better than many of her elders, how short the time for change has grown' (p. 165). There can be no recognition of the way the speech plays upon a particular construction of the child as `knowing innocent', as having some kind of direct (emotional) connection with the `real', through the re-iteration, for instance, of the phrase, `I'm only a child yet I know'. Nor can there be any question of interrogating precisely how this child `knows'. The implication is that the knowledge is embedded in her very being, that she knows through her guts as it were, emotionally or `naturally' (these two words become interchangeable here); and we cannot question the interpretation offered by Suzuki's speech because, after all, it is the `truth', guaranteed by the emotional reality and appeal of the `child'.

This is not a million miles away from the kind of problems that beset animal advocacy and its critiques of what it refers to as `representations [that] give a warped view of the natural world'. (15) Animal advocacy has been subject to routine and predictable accusations of over-indulgence in emotion, or sentimentality, with respect to animals, as Mary Midgley notes in Animals and Why They Matter: `What does it mean to say that scruples on behalf of animals are merely emotional, emotive or sentimental? What else ought they to be? Charges of this kind are a very common way of dismissing these scruples, and other scruples as well.' (16) Though animal advocates have a valid point when they draw attention to the priority generally given to reason over emotion in such dismissals, and despite Brian Luke's disclaimer that `the point of such critiques is not to invert the traditional hierarchy--to instead place emotion over reason--but rather to suggest that in ethics reason and emotion work together, so that attempts to expunge emotion from theoretical ethics are artificial and self-defeating', (17) there nevertheless prevails in the literary criticism that grows out of an advocacy stand-point an insistence on reversing the `traditional hierarchy', and this reversal functions in such a way that the emotional is in the end reified as the new `real' over the rational.

In her critique of the methodology of behavioural science, Marian Scholtmeijer illustrates this tendency. (18) Citing a 1946 study of chimpanzees, Scholtmeijer notes that, as the scientific team involved found,

when anthropomorphism was prohibited, researchers could not make meaningful assessments of chimpanzee behaviour: `All that resulted was an almost endless series of specific acts in which no order or meaning could be found.' [...] To the non-behaviourist lay person, the idea that animal acts become meaningful only when the animal is granted internal purpose and emotion is simple common sense. (pp. 73-74)

I would argue that the problem Scholtmeijer identifies arose because the scientists in question approached their research with the assumption that meaning exists in some sense independently of human interpretation, as a kind of revelation accessible once the veils of cultural or `anthropomorphic' assumption have been drawn aside. What the experiments drew attention to is that meaning arises precisely in the act of interpretation which can take place only in an anthropomorphic context. Scholtmeijer's critique, however, does not clarify this point, though it is implicit in the commentary, and emphasis is placed instead upon the `internal purpose and emotion' of the animal as being that which foiled the scientists' futile attempts at total objectivity. In the end Scholtmeijer and the behaviourists are not so very distant from each other since both start from a position that regards the animal as having a meaning and a `reality' independent of interpretative activity. (19) For though Scholtmeijer in this instance claims the animal as having a radical destabilizing effect upon human certainty, this becomes for her a property of the animal itself. In other words, the `reality' of the animal is known as `the unknowable', rather than its unknowability being understood as an effect of its positioning within language and culture.

As I have already remarked, animal advocates appear to feel that they need the animal to have an essential meaning (that is generally felt to be `mis-represented' by non-advocates) in order to justify animal advocacy.

This need accounts for a certain hostility towards constructivist approaches to the animal question, such as that displayed by Scholtmeijer in response to Keith Tester's Animals and Society. (20) Quoting Tester's argument that `A fish is only a fish if it is socially classified as one. [...] Animals are [...] a blank paper which can be inscribed with any message, any symbolic meaning, that the social wishes' (p. 3), (21) Scholtmeijer concludes:

And now, as culture purports to examine its own constructions, we have the `real' truth of nonhuman animals: they are the `blank paper' on which human beings write messages to themselves. Cultural solipsism has shifted to a higher level: it is not just that we have treated other animals as blank paper, we are entitled to do so because that is what they are. (pp. 3-4)

This type of reaction is what Rex and Wendy Stainton Rogers identify, in relation to the child, as the assumption that `to view children and childhoods [or in this case animals] as constructed is to claim that there is no material frame to a child [or animal] (no body that can be hurt)'. (22) They argue on the contrary that `social constructionism does not deny materiality, nor does it imply an unthinking relativism in which "anything goes"' (p. 183); rather, that it is a way of thinking that tries always to be `alert to the constructed character of [...] reality' (p. 184), thus endeavouring to be continually self-reflexive about the knowledges it assumes. This is also precisely the point of the quotation from Animals and Society, which, rather than arguing that it is all right to hurt or mistreat animals, is claiming that the social constructs the narratives that justify and provide the context for its actions; and necessarily, animal advocacy is implicated in the social and cannot divorce itself from it.

Resistance to constructivism, though not so obviously hostile as Scholtmeijer's perhaps, is also present in children's literature criticism. Perry Nodelman has made repeated assertions in the pages of the Children's Literature Association Quarterly that on the face of it suggest an engagement with constructivism. His essay `The Hidden Meaning and the Inner Tale' (23) is a pertinent example of this supposed constructivism. As it draws to a close, the essay reads:

Our common cliches about the ways in which children are close to nature or to God, about how their ignorance is really a saving innocence, disguise a profound distrust for the realities of life as we must view it as adults--and perhaps most significantly, a nostalgia for that which never was. For as Derrida shows, there never was an `other'--never anything before writing, [...] and similarly, there surely never was a childhood, in the sense of something surer and safer and happier than the world we perceive as adults. In privileging childhood as this sort of `other', we misrepresent and belittle what we are; more significantly, we belittle childhood and allow ourselves to ignore our actual knowledge of real children. (p. 147) Despite noting earlier that Derrida `undermines the idea that texts [...] contain [...] a hidden meaning that can be unveiled through the operations of an interpreter' (p. 144), Nodelman's text, like Thacker's gloss on Lacan, is unable fully to countenance the implications of the by now infamous quotation from Derrida that `there is nothing outside of the text' (quoted in Nodelman, p. 143). Hence the inability to engage with the most fundamental challenge of Derrida's work to `our actual knowledge of [the] real' and to the whole notion of `mis-representation' (p. 147), which after all relies on a notion of a base-line `real' that can be known and presented either accurately or inaccurately. Hence Nodelman's essay co-opts the work of deconstruction to a liberal philosophy of education that resurrects the ignorant (innocent of language) child and the adult as the one who knows, and moreover knows what is good for the child, in this case `deconstruction'.

That constructivism continues to be co-opted by liberal humanism in Nodelman's current writing can be seen in his most recent contribution to Children's Literature in his debate with Roderick McGillis about the characteristics of children's fiction. (24) In response to McGillis's criticism that Nodelman's usage of the phrase `view the world as a child' (`Pleasure and Genre', p. 6) privileges the child as a space supposedly removed `from the field of ideological manipulations' (McGillis, p. 19), Nodelman back-tracks:

I hasten to say that I didn't really mean it--not in the way that Rod takes it. I was talking not about some existing `child' who might represent the behaviour of a body of actual living children but about an intellectual construct, the concept of a child as unlike and opposite to adults because of a presumed innocence, a divergence from adult forms of thought. [...] I remain committed to the position that [...] any conception of childhood as a generalizable state distinct from other generalized states of being human exists primarily in human thought and language and is not [...] `hard-wired into our cognitive development.' (`The Urge to Sameness', p. 38)

Both the way `primarily' creeps in here to qualify the concept of childhood as concept, and the rest of the reply to McGillis, provide some insight as to why Nodelman, as he himself admits, `so easily slipped into the very behaviour I was in the process of separating myself from' (`The Urge to Sameness', p. 39).

Proceeding from his suspicion that Nodelman is privileging the child as a site of innocence (of ideology or cultural construction), McGillis goes on to refer to Nodelman's approval of those children's texts that `clearly represent contradictory versions of childhood [...] in ways that don't mask the contradictions or allow resolution' and thus `work [...] to keep readers of all ages aware, freer from the pressures of ideology than other kinds of texts might leave them' (`Pleasure and Genre', p. 13). Of this, McGillis remarks:

Free from the pressures of ideology: this is a condition each of us might aspire to. [...] We are relieved, for at least the time of our inhabiting the world of the book, from strong ideological pull. Would it were so.

The catch is: the assertion that children's books are somehow expressive of a contradiction that counters a simple ideological position is itself ideologically loaded. (McGillis, p. 20)

To counter this, Nodelman imagines that it is sufficient to draw attention to his `significant r' in the phrase `freer from the pressures of ideology' (`The Urge to Sameness', p. 41), adding, `I share Rod's belief that, as thinking beings, we exist only and always in language, only and always, therefore, in the context of an urge to sameness, only and always in ideology' (p. 42). But this leaves us with the question of on what grounds one can possibly make quantitative judgements about one's relative immersion (or not) in ideology. And this is the problem that emerges through this usage of the term `ideology' since it here suggests the presence and possibility of the non-ideological or `real'. Hence `ideology' functions in a similar way to `representation' in literary criticism, as the paradoxical guarantor of the `real'. But, if one exists `only and always in language' how can one be more or less free of ideology? This is likewise the problem for John Stephens's work (25) which Nodelman has elsewhere promoted as exemplary in its `conscious[ness] of the problem' of its `author's own idealised constructions of "the child"'. (26) Stephens's text, however, ends up making contradictory claims because it wants to have recourse to ideology as a concept that describes something which is pervasive (present at all levels) and yet also requires that it be discernibly separable from the `real'. This leads to such assertions as: `Outside the text exists the cultural context which determines the range of [...] semantic options available at particular textual moments. We can only speak loosely of `outside' [...] since language does not merely reflect the world but is crucial to the very constitution of the world' (p. 12). But if language is seen as constitutive, then we cannot logically speak even loosely of the `outside' or the `real' (which is the implication of `there is nothing outside the text'). And, to speak loosely of it, allows the notion that some texts are more ideological than others. Thus Stephens suggests that there are certain `endemically transgressive' (p. 147) texts which attempt to deny stability, employing `distancing' strategies that will `encourage the constitution of a reading self in relation to [rather than either through identification with or in opposition to] the other constituted in and by the text' (p. 69). Typically such texts will imply multiple perspectives, and for Stephens, `The optimum enabling state for the reader is to have a number of available reading strategies, including interrogative engagement with the implied reader' (pp. 69-70). In other words, we are returned, as with Nodelman, to a liberal education philosophy that aims to teach children what Stephens terms `"unrestricted" reading strategies' so that they may resist manipulation, though presumably not the manipulation of the liberal education system that will teach them so to read.

For Stephens, Nodelman, and even for McGillis, there has to be some way out of discourse, some way of touching the `real'; and this, curiously, is the rationalization for the teaching and practice of reading:

If we believe at all in the pleasures of alertness we will encourage those we teach to be alert both to the ways of reading and to the range of readings available. Let our libraries, our syllabi, and our interests be crowded with a literature that reflects a racial and cultural multiplicity. Let us teach the conflicts. Let us acknowledge, or better yet recognize, difference. Let us acknowledge the ideological underpinning of the books we read and the positions we take when we read. Who knows, maybe by continuing to confront contradictions within ourselves and within the texts we read, we may ease ourselves just a little from the pressures of ideology. (McGillis, pp. 20-21)

It should thus be apparent from the above that it is not the case that the construction of the `real object' (the child/animal) somehow immune to the `corruption' of language is something that is exclusive to children's literature criticism and animal advocacy. It is something that occurs routinely in critical and philosophical positions that speak of `representation', and of `ideology' and in doing so root themselves in the presumed knowable `real'. Nevertheless it is especially evident in these two forms of criticism and to some extent it is defended by critics operating in these fields as a meritorious aspect of the criticism thereby produced, in a way that does not recognize the mastery of the child and the animal thereby assumed by those who speak on their behalf. Children's literature critics, for example, have certainly not been afraid to present their field as the last bastion of `conservative academic practices in disfavor with the academic avant-garde (Deborah Stevenson).' (27)

(1) Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity and Representation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p. 8.

(2) The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Period (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).

(3) Baker makes specific reference to Clifford Geertz here.

(4) Steve Baker, The Postmodern Animal (London: Reaktion Books, 2000), p. 9.

(5) The Case of Peter Pan: Or the Impossibility of Children's Fiction, rev. edn. (London: Macmillan, 1994).

(6) Children's Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

(7) Signs of Childness in Children's Books (Stroud: Thimble Press, 1997).

(8) `Disdain or Ignorance? Literary Theory and the Absence of Children's Literature', The Lion and the Unicorn, 24.1 (January 2000), 1-7.

(9) `The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience' (1949), in Ecrits, ed. and trans. by Alan Sheridan (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 1-7.

(10) Alan Sheridan, `Translator's Note', in Ecrits, pp. vii-xiv (p. x).

(11) In fact these issues are addressed, though in a radically different way in The Case of Peter Pan, by Rose, who could hardly be said to ignore the question of the child reader constructed by literary texts and the educational philosophies and systems that promulgate them; most obviously in Chapter 5: `Peter Pan, Language and the State--Captain Hook goes to Eton', (pp. 115-36).

(12) `Childhood and Textuality: Culture, History, Literature', in Children in Culture: Approaches to Childhood, ed. by Karin Lesnik-Oberstein (London: Macmillan, 1998), pp. 1-28.

(13) That is, in those histories that seek to provide an alternative to an `histoire des mentalites', instead regrading `emotional bonds of love and care as historically and culturally constant, consistent, and qualitatively similar' (Lesnik-Oberstein, p. 17).

(14) Suzanne Rahn, `Green Worlds for Children', The Lion and the Unicorn, 19.2 (December 1995), 149-70 (p. 165).

(15) Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan, introduction, in Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, ed. by Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 1-8 (p. 6).

(16) Animals and Why They Matter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), p. 33.

(17) `Taming Ourselves or Going Feral? Toward a Nonpatriarchal Metaethic of Animal Liberation', in Animals and Women, pp. 290-319 (p. 292).

(18) Animal Victims in Modern Fiction: From Sanctity to Sacrifice (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) pp. 69-77.

(19) The difference is that in the course of their research, as Scholtmeijer describes it, the behavioural scientists at least seemed to revise their position on this.

(20) Animals and Society: The Humanity of Animal Rights (London: Routledge, 1991).

(21) Tester's argument, which is a critique of what he takes to be Mary Midgley's essentialist position that `a fish is always a fish', can be found in Tester, pp. 17-47 (especially pp. 46-47).

(22) `Word Children', in Children in Culture, pp. 178-203 (p. 183).

(23) `The Hidden Meaning and the Inner Tale: Deconstruction and the Interpretation of Fairy Tales', Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 15.3 (Fall 1990), 143-48.

(24) Perry Nodelman, `Pleasure and Genre: Speculations on the Characteristics of Children's Fiction', Children's Literature 28 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 1-14; Roderick McGillis, `The Pleasure of the Process: Same Place but Different', Children's Literature 28, pp. 15-21; Perry Nodelman, `The Urge to Sameness', Children's Literature 28, pp. 38-43.

(25) Language and Ideology in Children's Literature (London: Longman, 1992).

(26) `Hatchet Job', Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 21.1 (Spring 1996), 42-45 (p. 43).

(27) Quoted in Sanjay Sircar, `The Sense of the Nineties: Current Assumptions about Children's Literature', review of Reflections of Change: Children's Literature since 1945, ed. by Sandra Beckett, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 24.1 (Spring 1999), 47-49 (p. 47).
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Author:Walsh, Sue
Publication:Yearbook of English Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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