الرئيسية Media Culture & Society Book reviews : The Case of Peter Pan: or The Impossibility of Children's Fiction, J. Rose. London,...
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428 Pictures of Women: Sexuality, Jane Root, London, Pandora Press, 1984, £4.95. garish scrawl in hot-pink across the cover proclaims the topic to potential readers: Sexuality. Promising.... This book represents the intersection of two institutional responses to the articulacy of feminism: Routledge and Kegan Paul’s launching of Pandora Press to cater to or capture (depending on your degree of cynicism) the ’new’ women’s reading market and Channel Four’s commissioning of a team of feminists to produce a series about female sexuality. Promising.... This book is based on the scripts of that series produced by the Pictures of Women Co-operative (written by Rosalind Coward, Annette Kuhn, and Carol Smart) and provides a review of much of the A material which informed those programmes. Thus, it is useful for those who couldn’t manage to stay awake for what Channel Four has designated as radical intellectuals’ hour-eleven to midnight (for night owls?). The introduction explains that both the television series and the book were designed to ’look at the ideas about sex which are often left unspoken’. This examination is offered in successive chapters (corresponding to the sequence of programmes) on the presumption that sexuality is natural, pornography, advertising, prostitution, sexual harassment at work, and the sexual theories and assumptions embodied in British law. The text is accessible and comprehensive. So Jane Root has admirably achieved her ambition to provide ’an introduction to the way of looking at sexuality which has developed within feminism over the past decade’. It is jam-packed with the theories, practices, and illustrations which have nourished and constituted recent British feminist analysis of this topic So, in many ways, the promise is realized. The emphasis seems to be on the book’s distilling function. At its best, this results in a crisp and to-the-point analysis. The chapter on sexual harassment at work is the best example of this. Diversions are dismissed-the issue is ’not ju; st a &dquo;bad&dquo;, &dquo;unpleasant&dquo; or &dquo;aberrant&dquo; way of behaving open to anyone, but as an act which is in keeping with the way our society organises relationships between men and women’ (p. 93). Nevertheless, I did have reservations about this strategy and the format as a text linked to a television series. I sometimes experienced the product as a somewhat monolithic image of feminism: conflicts are smoothed over, the dynamic of debate and variety of viewpoints are played down. Sure, I would complain if the book dwelled too much on disagreements among feminists but feminism does seem just too neatly packaged. , The notion that a television book should digest ideas also seems to make the book a less exciting read. The POW Collective’s efforts have been compared with John Berger’s Ways of Seeing series which pioneered new television formats. The text also reminded me of Berger’s book: juxtaposition, variety of visual materials, etc. But for me, there wasn’t the excitement I felt in my first encounter with Ways of Seeing. Here the concern was less with fresh insights and more with the re-presentation of arguments and ideas which have been around recent feminism. For me, this rendered the book somewhat patronizing and bland at points. I don’t think I am alone in expecting novelty and excitement from new books. Pictures of Women: Sexuality describes a range of problems linked to female sexuality in our culture. I would not deny that these are key issues for contemporary feminism. However, I couldn’t help reflecting that, despite its oppositional stance, once again the book seemed to ride with the tide rather than create new waves. It mirrors the ubiquitous presumption in contemporary Western societies that sexuality is the real repository of identity and that sexuality is overwhelmingly women’s problem (or problems). It’s very form reinforces the equation it contests at discrete points: ’women belong only to the sexual and domestic’ (p. 96). Weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of this book I was a little disappointed. Surely the popular face of feminism can be diverse, dynamic, challenging, and fresh? The promise, in this instance, has not been fulfilled. Maureen McNeil The Case of Peter Pan: £6.95. or The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction, J. Rose. London, Macmillan, 1984, In the interval between the truths of innocence and nostalgia, between the established signs of ecstasy and sadness that are repeatedly played out across the orthodox surface of ’the unrestrained laughter of children’ (cherished and lost according to myth); Jacqueline Rose appears to have slipped the Downloaded from mcs.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 14, 2015 429 question of adult desire (its ’refusals’ and ’demands’), ’the very constitution of the adult as a subject,’ into the textuality of childhood. There would be a certain heresy involved in doing this. It would mean turning certain things upside down. In short, it would require throwing the ‘question of childhood’ back upon the modes of objectification that constitute and reproduce the subject in and through the ’fantasy of childhood’ For if we confine ourselves to asking the question of children (what is childhood?), then presumably we are simply attempting to provide an answer to the question: what do children want? Rose, however, is careful to say that she avoids this procedure, and she certainly does not ask ’what is childhood?’ nor ’what do children want, or need, from literature?’ Rather, she attempts to question the psychic and sexual life of the adult subject, in so far as the latter invests and identifies itself in the fantasy of childhood in the specific domain of children’s literature. Whether her book lives up to the promise of its heretic assertions is another question. We can distinguish three main lines of argument in her attempts to pose the series: sexuality, writing,government. First, Rose wants to claim that Peter Pan amounts to a series of ’disturbances’, from an instability in language to the fractured sexual subjectivity of its addressee; that it symbolically represents the unrepresentable (i.e. ’the adult’s desire for the child’), it ’stages’ what cannot be written in what it writes; and that the story of our own ’cleavage’ and ’splitting’ is inscribed in Barrie’s ’troubled inspiration’. Thus she argues for a particular reading of Freudian theory in the analysis of children’s fiction, different from the usual attempts at symbolic interpretation and psychobiography, in order to account for the emergence of Peter Pan in terms of this series of ’impossible questions’ about origins, sexuality and death. Rose uses psychoanalysis to trace the history of a narrative discourse through ’the successive repudiation’ of its immanent impossibility. Secondly, she continues her account of this relationship between language and sexuality that turns upon a preoccupation with childhood in the field of children’s writing, through a critique of liberalism and its realist theory of language. In what she claims to be an aesthetics of moral pedagogy that stretches from Rousseau and Locke to the early 1900s and beyond; Rose maps a double ’innocence’ in the ideology of liberal Reason, an ’innocence of the child and the word’: an uncorrupted, primitive state of childhood (culture); and an immediacy of expression, ’a language once pure’, primordial and sensuous. Thus she adds to the psychoanalytic constitution of the literature signifier, a linguistic account of the liberal humanist conception of childhood and the ’colonialism of adventure’, in terms of a critique of the latter’s realist theory of language and its empiricism of the sign. Finally, Rose attempts to trace the related movements of an exchange-value and a sexual, governmental) ’cult of the child’ in the history of children’s writing, from the ’uncomfortable’ association of money and childhood to the official constructs of children as they inform educational procedure. She argues that Peter Pan emerged in the early 1900s as both a theatrical phenomenon and a book, in terms of an economic, physical, educative investment in childhood. Although it appears that of the two the book was more profoundly fractured its movements and effects spanning the gift, the prize, and the instruction; luxury, mass production, and schooling; the classic, uppermiddleclass tradition of children’s literary culture and a new, autonomous children’s literature associated specifically with the public elementary school child and working-class culture in general. It is this relationship between class, culture, language and schooling that Rose addresses in her final chapter, through a consideration of the emergence of a particular problem of literacy and a particular linguistic-educational policy of the state in England in the early 1900s. She concludes her discussion of the case of Peter Pan by claiming, firstly, that it belonged, initially, on both sides of the governmental division (’elementary’ / ‘secondary’ ), that was constructed around the institution of English in this period. And, secondly, that the authorized school version subsequently cut out and made smooth this (’linguistic’, ’cultural’) disturbance and rendered its ’confusion of tongues’ a pedagogic ’scandal’. But although Rose ends with a few cursory remarks on Bettelheim and Zelan, and although she attempts, briefly, to raise the issue of literacy, childhood and social policy in relation to the Bullock Report; it is here, in relauon to the problems specific to the question of government, that her investigation fails to deliver the promise it set out as a displacement in the politics of interrogation that surround children and childhood. Her use of psychoanalysis, determined on the linguistic model of signs and language, is symptomatic of this failure. Psychoanalysis is clearly not the only technical apparatus required by an educative desire to supervise the investments and identifications of a class of children-from the ’disaffected’ workingclass child to the ’special needs’ of the ’ethnic minorities’-who have been judged to have dropped below the ’normal’ standards of literacy. But any account of children’s writing which claims that the Downloaded from mcs.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 14, 2015 430 lattPr operates between relations of procurement and government, between a game of seduction and the development of educational methods, cannot possibly avoid discussing the transformation of the therapeutics of the cure into the pedagogics of state literacy, as the strategic formation of social normalization shifts from the clinic to the school Jacqueline Rose has been readmg the wrong Freud on childhood. Steven Groarke Downloaded from mcs.sagepub.com at UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY on March 14, 2015