The Material Culture of Childhood


Fall 2012


4th Floor Classroom


Although it is now taken for granted, the concept of childhood is a relatively recent invention. From the late 17th century, specific ideas about raising, educating, clothing, and entertaining children reveal shifting perceptions regarding the early years of life. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the middle classes embraced the idea of childhood with near cultic fervor. This seminar investigates the construction of childhood in theories of development and through the vast material culture designed for children. In addition to the writings of, among others, Locke, Rousseau, Dewey, Fröbel, and Benjamin, the broad variety of material culture, including furniture, illustration, clothing, silver, ceramics, toys, television, and film, is examined. Other themes include concepts of innocence and gender, and shifting patterns of consumption. 3 credits.