Images of the Young Child in History: Enlightenment and Romance

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Contemporary Western views of the child and of childhood call for a historical inquiry into the ontological and epistemological preunderstandings from which these views have arisen. From the ancient mythological motif of the divine child to the perspectives of Freud and Piaget, this study traces the philosophical images of the young child in Western thought. Given special attention is the image of "holy childhood," which views the young child as possessed of a psycho-spiritual unity that is often translated into a goal of adult development. This notion of the young child as exemplar for adults was carried into the secularized West of the Enlightenment by the latter's mirror image, the Romantic Movement. Although Enlightenment thinking tends to dominate the modern world view, both traditions-En-lightenment and Romance-still live in tension in contemporary images of the young child.



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