In the light of the complex demographic shifts associated with late modernity and the impetus of neo-liberal politics, childhood continues all the more to operate as a repository for the articulation of diverse social and cultural anxieties. Since the Thatcher years, juvenile delinquency, child poverty, and protection have been persistent issues in public discourse. Simultaneously, childhood has advanced as a popular subject in the arts, as the wealth of current films and novels in this field indicates. Focusing on the late twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries, this collection assembles contributions concerned with current political, social, and cultural dimensions of childhood in the United Kingdom. The individual chapters, written by internationally renowned experts from the social sciences and the humanities, address a broad spectrum of contemporary childhood issues, including debates on child protection, school dress codes, the media, the representation and construction of children in audiovisual media, and literary awards for children’s fiction. Appealing to a wide scholarly audience by joining perspectives from various disciplines, including art history, education, law, film and TV studies, sociology, and literary studies, this volume endorses a transdisciplinary and meta-theoretical approach to the study of childhood. It seeks to both illustrate and dismantle the various ways in which childhood has been implicitly and explicitly conceived in different disciplines in the wake of the constructivist paradigm shift in childhood studies.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Approaching Childhood in Contemporary Britain: Introduction

Sandra Dinter and Ralf Schneider

Section I: Childhood in Contemporary British Literature and Literary Criticism

1 Writing Plural Childhoods – Some Thoughts Concerning the Recent Carnegie Medal Shortlists

Anja Müller

2 The Adult Within the Literary Child: Reading Toby Litt’s deadkidsongs as an Anti-Bildungsroman

Katharina Pietsch and Tyll Zybura

3 The Child Narrator in Contemporary British Fiction and Literary Criticism: The Case of Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English

Sandra Dinter

4 Children’s Literature, Cognitivism and Neuroscience

Karín Lesnik-Oberstein


Section II: Medial and Visual Constructions of Childhood in Contemporary Britain

5 Children’s Television and Public Service in Contemporary Britain

Jonathan Bignell

6 An Inconvenient Growth: Watching Child Actors, Growing Up, Sideways and Backwards in Contemporary British Film and Television

Karen Lury

7 Adults Looking at Children: Books, Bodies and Buying in Children’s Book Covers

Jessica Medhurst

8 Reflections on British and American Images of and for Children

Ellen Handler Spitz


Section III: Historical and Social Dimensions of Childhood in Contemporary Britain

9 Childcare for the Under-Fives in Post-1945 England: Contemporary Reflections on Past Childhoods

Angela Davis

10 Contingent Connections: Between German and British Childhoods – Marion Daltrop

Erica Burman


Section IV: Contemporary British Childhoods between Rights and Regulations

11 The Politics of Child Protection in Contemporary England: Towards the ‘Authoritarian Neoliberal State’

Nigel Parton

12 Dressing up for School: Beyond Rights and Welfare

Daniel Monk

13 The Recognition and Distribution of Children’s Agency in the UK

Michael Wyness