Pat Crain, New York University associate professor of English and author of the award-winning book, The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from The New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter, will deliver a talk titled Imagining the Child Reader, Then and Now at Monmouth University on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall, Room 104. The event is free and open to the public.
Imagining the Child Reader, Then and Now is the inaugural lecture in an annual series which will feature top scholars speaking on topics about “Ink and Electricity: Advancing Liberal Learning in the Digital Age.” This series is sponsored by the McMurray-Bennett Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Monmouth University. English Professor Kristin Bluemel, the current McMurray-Bennett Endowed Chair, was appointed to this position in July 2011.
In her talk, Dr. Crain will use images from a variety of printed ephemera for American children in the nineteenth century to explore the history of an iconic figure, the child reader. This figure and its history resonates today in anxious debates about children and new technologies of literacy. While the image of an absorbed child, curled up happily with a book, still circulates as a nostalgic cultural ideal, this figure would have surprised and worried eighteenth- and nineteenth-century teachers and parents. Instead, early American children’s books and prints represented children standing or walking with books and reading together in familial groups, mobile and sociable postures of children’s reading. These images were joined towards the end of the century by the newly prescribed reading in bed. The type of literature named for this posture, the “bedtime story,” identifies reading with sleeping and dreaming, a nostalgic nursery fulfillment of a romantic ideal. “Imagining the Child, Then and Now” traces such nineteenth-century imaginings of children reading to consider ways in which iconic figures of childhood undergird fantasies of what reading is for, then and now.
Dr. Patricia Crain teaches in the English Department at New York University, where her work focuses on nineteenth-century American literature and culture, on the history of print culture and literacy, on the history of childhood, and on critical pedagogy. Her awards and fellowships include a Modern Language Association Prize for a first book, a Spencer Foundation Fellowship at the Newberry Library, and an American Antiquarian Society/NEH Fellowship. She taught at Princeton and the University of Minnesota before coming to NYU in 2006. Her current book-in-progress is Imagining the Child Reader: Literacy, Property, and the Media of Childhood.
Please direct inquiries to Dr. Kristin Bluemel, English Department, Monmouth University, 732-571-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.