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Pedagogy 5.3 (2005) 517-520

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A Conversation with Andrew O'Malley

[Works Cited for Roundtable]

When, in the process of putting together this roundtable review, we shared our responses to The Making of the Modern Child, we found that we each had questions we would like to put to the author, and Andrew O'Malley kindly agreed to join our discussion of his work.

Shelley King: I want to begin by asking you the question posed to my colleagues: what connection do you see between your research and your undergraduate teaching?

Andrew O'Malley: They certainly inform each other. At a very practical level, my research interests shape my courses; they guide my text selections, and the sorts of issues I try to raise in classroom discussions are often ones I am trying to work out as part of my research and writing. In some ways, the classroom provides a great forum for testing a reading or a theory, and the feedback and input of my students has more than once caused me to rethink a text or an approach. I think of what goes on in the classroom as a circuit; I bring in questions related to my research, they circulate among the students and come back to me in a different form, which allows me to see them from different perspectives. There are some limitations to what I can do in the classroom with eighteenth-century children's texts, since the material is almost all in archives, but there are some reprints and facsimile editions of key works available, [End Page 517] and Web sites such as provide online access to a handful of titles that we can work on together.

Julia Šarić: Recently universities have begun to introduce "child studies" programs to integrate work that previously was conducted as a subbranch of a variety of disciplines: literary criticism, psychology, history, et cetera. Did your decision to publish in a series specifically devoted to children's culture rather than children's literature shape your argument? How does a cultural studies perspective influence your approach in the classroom?

AO: I have to confess that I don't know as much as I should about "child studies" programs. I have checked a few out on university Web sites and they look interesting, as they seem to bridge approaches that are often at odds with one another—I'm thinking, for example, of the differences in ideas about childhood one sometimes finds between education departments and children's literature studies. Publishing in this series did not really change my argument; the manuscript was mostly ready before I submitted it to the series. In fact, I submitted it to this series precisely because it already seemed to be a good fit. A cultural studies perspective informs my teaching pretty much at every level, in both my children's literature and eighteenth-century courses. The kinds of materials my students and I bring to children's literature classes reflect this. We're concerned with unpacking children's culture by looking not only at books written for children, but also at children's oral culture, film, toys, video games, Internet folklore (for example, those chain e-mails, circulated by unhappy office workers, that depict an idealized, nostalgic version of childhood), newspaper clippings about legal cases involving children, et cetera. In my book I tried to demonstrate the range of discourses out of which modern childhood was constructed. Current childhood exists in a similar nexus of not just conventionally textual forms and discourses.

SK: It is clear that such a wide-ranging and carefully researched study will have an impact on research in the field of eighteenth-century children's literature. What did you hope your book might accomplish in terms of pedagogy?

AO: Well, I hope that my book will do some of the same things in terms of pedagogy as I hope it will in terms of other research in the area. Broadly speaking, one of the things I hope the book does is demonstrate how...


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