perry nodelman

Freud is known to have undermined the concept of childhood innocence, but his real challenge is easily lost if we see in the child merely a miniature version of what our sexuality eventually comes to be. The child is sexual, but its sexuality (bisexual, polymorphous, perverse) threatens our own at its very roots. Setting up the child as innocent is not, therefore, repressing its sexuality – it is above all holding off any possible challenge to our own.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (161-62)
Children’s books encourage readers to consider what it means to see or think in ways usually considered to be childlike—ways defined by their relative lack of knowledge or complexity. They open a discourse about what children are, about how they are different from adults, and about the relative merits of the different qualities. And in doing so, they invite their readers, not just adults but also children, to think about what it means to be a child and what it means, therefore, to know less than older people do. In a sense they replicate the foundational situation of their writing—an adult knowing more writing for children because children know less and need to understand the implications of knowing less.
—  Perry Nodelman
Childhood exists … to allow adults to be adults – so children’s literature exists in order to impose childhood on children… . If adults need children to be childlike in order to understand and confirm their own adulthood, then children’s literature exists most significantly as part of a system that confirms the childlikeness of children in order to confirm the adulthood – and the power and authority – of adults.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (169)
[I]n much children’s literature, from nursery rhymes to young-adult fiction, order, reason, good sense, and normalcy are clearly identified with the world as constructed and legislated by adults, the world of fences and train schedules and prisons for lawbreakers. As a result, anarchy is understood to be appealing to children as a freeing defiance of adult oppression and, therefore, as essentially childlike.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (282-83)
Childhood as now understood, and as children’s literature constructs it, is just one manifestation of a conflicted and ambivalent discourse of inside and outside, human and other, at the heart of the capitalist project. […] Childhood as now understood (or invented or allowed) is a decidedly middle-class and mercantile phenomenon.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (252-54)
Children’s literature as people now identify it exists only and always when adults believe that children need something special in what they read that child readers cannot provide for themselves and that adults must therefore provide for them. […] [C]hildren need adults to provide a special literature for them. Until adults made this assumption, there was no children’s literature.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (248-49)
It might well be that the closets of texts of children’s literature generally contain a theoretically repressed sexuality – a sexuality queer enough that it might represent what Freud identifies as the polymorphous perversity of childhood, the idea ‘that all the perverse tendencies have their roots in childhood, that children are disposed towards them all and practise them all to a degree conforming with their immaturity.’ Viewed in these terms, children’s literature might be viewed as a way in which adult writers, pretending to be childlike, gain access to their own inherent queerness.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (42)
The continuation of the [capitalist] system demands that everyone both produce and consume, everyone be both inside and outside and aware of oneself as both an integrated communal insider and a separate self-indulgent outsider with a mind and body of one’s own. The need to construct such a subjectivity in those who presumably do not yet possess it accounts for the existence of children’s literature – it is usually assumed to be already in operation in what people identify as literature for adults.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (255)
Childhood … is inexplicable without its implied comparison to adulthood. Children can be perceived as lacking only in terms of what adults have, as simple in their thinking only in relation to more complex adult thought, and so on. Childhood is outside only in relation to adulthood as inside.
—  Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult (264)