- Writing the Criminal Child: Antebellum Prison Records, Parenting Manuals, and the Rise of the Incorrigible Child
- J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 2018
- pp. 307-334
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- Additional Information
This article analyzes how early American theories of the child self arose in conjunction with emerging writings about juvenile delinquency. I read the day-to-day records of the New York House of Refuge, the first U.S. prison specifically designed for children, alongside popular domestic manuals ranging from John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education to Lydia Marie Child's The Mother's Book. These dual archives converge to generate visions of a childhood physically estranged from the adults around them and thus outside of socialization or discipline. Targeting poor and immigrant children, in particular, the perceived opacity of so-called "incorrigible" children reproduces juvenile subjectivity as a suspect entity, which is unknowable and therefore always potentially deviant from the broader social body.