Tag Archives: children’s writing

Regarding a child’s summer holiday postcard – A letter

Postcard1.png

Dear Reader,

The postcard pictured above was sent on 12 April 1988 from Wadebridge in Cornwall to Oxford. It is one of those cards you yourself might recall having written to your own grandparents during a family summer holiday.

Postcard2

Above is the reverse side. The note underneath the drawing and the address were in all likelihood added by an adult. They identify the card’s author as ‘Jessie’ and the addressee as ‘Granny’. Jessie, apparently, was too young to produce a complex drawing, let alone  write.

You may ask yourself – just as I do – : did child or parents initiate the ‘writing’ of the postcard? who chose it? did the child tell the parent to add the note?

This postcard is a wonderful example of what I would call a ‘composite object’: a letter, postcard, or text/drawing in a different format, that is the result of a collective effort of several authors – in this case: a child and an adult. Their relationship is marked by a complex mix of agency and dependency: the child’s agency seems both curtailed and extended: they depend, for instance, on the parent for a range of activities – such as buying the postcard and adding the correct address; but they are also enabled to participate in ‘grown-up’ correspondence and to express themselves freely – and, in this case, ‘colourfully’.

The parent’s position of power notwithstanding, the traces of their emotional investment, imagination, and enjoyment in taking part in this shared project are also obvious – not least from the little, incomplete smiley appended to the child’s name. By adding the note and addressing the card to ‘Granny’, the parent even assumes the child’s perspective – and with that their ‘voice’; they write not only on their child’s behalf but in their name.

Similar forms of collaborative writing and mutual investment can also be found in late eighteenth-century children’s letters. I am currently working on a case study of the letters written by the children of the German philosopher, theologian and cultural historian Johann Gottfried August Herder in the 1780s and 90s; the period I am particularly concerned with are the years 1788 / 89 during which Herder travelled to Italy.

The first results of my research on this material will be published in a collection of essays entitled Was ist ein Brief? – Aufsätze zu epistolarer Theorie und Kultur / What is a letter? Essays on epistolary theory and culture which Caroline Socha (Basel/Switzerland) and I are currently preparing for publication with Königshausen & Neumann. If you, dear Reader, would like to read more about children’s correspondence and maybe, also, about epistolary theory and cultures more generally, this book might be of interest to you.

Quite independently of that, I very much hope you enjoyed this short missive and that you will come back in time for more.

Sincerely yours,

Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig

PS: I chanced upon the postcard pictured above in one of Oxford’s many Oxfam shops. I also found a few others there which I might share with you at a later stage. If you happen to be ‘Jessie’ or know (of) them, I would appreciate it very much if you could get in touch.

 

Upcoming workshop: The graphic evidence of childhood, 1760-1914

THE GRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF CHILDHOOD, 1760-1914
Palatine Learning Centre
Durham University
Friday, 15 April 2016

This event is sponsored by Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study, the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, and the Department of Philosophy.

TOPICS AND SPEAKERS

8:45-9:20 Coffee

9:20-9:30 INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS

Dr Matthew Daniel Eddy
Durham University

9:30-11:00 SESSION 1

Chair and Comments
Dr Matthew Daniel Eddy
Durham University

Prof Matthew Grenby
Newcastle University
Looking Glass for the Mind, or Unintellectual Mirror:
Interpreting Children’s Marginalia

Prof Kathryn Gleadle
Oxford University
Tactical agents?
Juvenile Creativity and the Politics of the Diary

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-1:00 SESSION 2

Chair and Comments
Dr Lutz Sauerteig, Durham University

Dr Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig
Durham University
The Correspondence of J.G. Herder’s Children – A Family Matter

Dr Siân Pooley
Oxford University
‘Letters are thought-bearers’:
Feeling, Thinking and Printing in England c.1870-1914

1:00-2:00 Lunch

2:00-4:00 SESSION 3

Chair and Comments
Dr Melanie Keene, Cambridge University

Dr Barbara Gribling
Durham University
Playing with the Past:
Toys, Games and Children’s Engagement with British History

Prof Barbara Wittmann
Humbolt University, Berlin
Children’s Drawings and the Human Sciences

Dr Rebecca Gowland and Benn Penny-Mason
Durham University
Excluded Bodies:
Bioarchaeological Evidence for Physical and Cognitive Impediments to Education

4:00 CONCLUSION

OBJECTIVES
The history of childhood has become an important field of study in recent years. One of its exciting characteristics is that it attracts researchers from a rich variety of disciplines, including the humanities, the social sciences and the human sciences. Consequently, the history of childhood emotion, puberty, selfhood, health and agency has become more visible, both inside and outside the academy. Yet, with the rising popularity of childhood history comes a growing concern about the kinds of evidence that can be used to reconstruct the lives of children. This concern is increasingly intimated by scholars who research the material and visual foundations of childhood. They point out that many histories of pre-twentieth-century childhood often fail to engage directly with evidence that was made or (conclusively) used by girls and boys, either in specialised settings or on a daily basis.

This workshop seeks to develop and extend the material and visual history of childhood by focusing on the kinds of graphic evidence that was made or used by children during the 18th and 19th centuries. The notion of ‘graphic’ will be interpreted widely to mean the instruments, skills or materials used to manually represent knowledge on paper (or similar forms of media) through writing or drawing. The papers will discuss how graphic artefacts can be used as childhood evidence and/or to what extent graphic materials and techniques can be used to historicise how children experienced the world through the act of making or using an object. To keep the discussion focused, each speaker is invited to concentrate on a specific graphic genre of her choosing, and to consider how the genre can be used to analyse the legitimacy and efficacy of current methods used to reconstruct the history of childhood.

REGISTRATION (£15)
The registration fee includes tea breaks and lunch. To register, please send your name, institutional affiliation, postal address, email address and £15 cash to: Ms Laura Dearlove, Department of Philosophy, 50/51 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HN, UK. For health and safety reasons, all payments must be received no later than Monday 11 April 2015.

FURTHER INFORMATION
For further information, please contact the workshop organiser, Dr Matthew Daniel Eddy, at m.d.eddy@durham.ac.uk

Information sourced via the Children’s History Society UK