3/9 Questions

The “Fantastic futures” and “flying Africans” Fielder describes remind me of Christina Sharpe’s “wake work” and, with the reference to wings suddenly appearing, they remind me of Bruno Bettelheim’s theorization of fairytales in which protagonists find solutions to troubling situations in their own body. In other words, they comfort and offer a hopeful vision of the future at the same time. It occurs to me that this kind of fictional solution treads the line between the “narratives of restoration” and “narratives of development” we talked about the other week. A future resolution is being proposed, but it is impossible. I agree with Hubler’s treatment of Speak—some of the same things struck me when I read it a while back and particularly loved Nikolajeva’s article, particularly its treatment of carnival. 

Nikolajeva’s article made me think of some of the conversations I’ve had with children about books and how different their criticisms have been from what I expected. Many times their critique seems to be of the characters themselves—if they don’t like a character or can’t see themselves in them, they might discard the book as whole. This suggests that the question Nikolajeva asks at the end of whether a child’s experience can be conveyed by an adult author is relevant not only to us but to them. 

Questions: Nikolajeva ends by saying we have to answer the major question of “what is a child,” but how can we answer such a question without first attending to and defining our own position? Isn’t the way we define childhood highly dependent on our definition of adulthood? Historically, has there been a kind of inverse relation in which the more dystopian the adult reality is, the more innocent we needed the child to be? 

5 thoughts on “3/9 Questions

  1. Ruwanthi E

    In her reading of As the cROW Flies, Fielding argues that the crow represents Black diasporicness. While acknowledging and commending the crow’s refusal to reproduce the diasporic tendency to “return to lost origins” (for more on this see Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Identity and Diaspora), by showing relief upon returning to America which it calls its ‘home’, one wonders if this could nevertheless alienate those children belonging to black diasporic communities who do not necessarily feel ‘at home’ in America despite being second or even third generation African Americans ?

    1. Carrie Hintz

      Ruwanthi, Such a powerful question….and so interesting to think about in terms of the 1920/1921 context…was there a pressure for Du Bois to produce something that had a patriotic message in some way? I’m not sure I have the answer to that one, but I’d love to find out more…CH

      1. Carrie Hintz

        From the W.E.B. Du Bois’s Research Center website:

        “Du Bois was a global figure, a world traveller, a convener of Pan African Congresses, and an enemy of colonialism. He fought for peace throughout his life, and this eventually brought him into conflict with the United States Justice Department, who were caught up in the Red Scare of the 1940s and 50s. Du Bois was persecuted, hand-cuffed at his arraignment, vilified, put on trial, but acquitted. Nevertheless, he chose to leave the US behind him and emigrated to Ghana, at the invitation of President Kwame Nkrumah, where he spent the rest of his life. “

        1. Carrie Hintz

          Of course Du Bois also theorized “double consciousness.”

          Here is an excerpt from an article from The Chicago Reporter entitled “On Being Black and Patriotic:”

          As my mother showed with her Memorial Day appreciation — the ultimate sacrifices here and abroad — patriotism for African Americans is something that still is complicated by what W.E.B. DuBois called the “double consciousness,” that inside-out perspective of being American and Black, of believing in the principles of freedom, justice and equality, even when they were tantalizingly out of reach. “They still press on, they still nurse the dogged hope … of a higher synthesis of civilization and humanity, a true progress …” DuBois wrote in the August 1897 essay “Strivings of the Negro People,” his first of many published in The Atlantic, and later included in his seminal book “The Souls of Black Folk.”

  2. Carrie Hintz

    Hi Nicole,
    These are great questions across the board, but I particularly appreciate the observation “Nikolajeva asks at the end of whether a child’s experience can be conveyed by an adult author is relevant not only to us but to them.” There is immense promise in this idea. I also like this notion of “contesting adulthood.” There was a wave of children’s literature scholarship and teaching around the idea of “adulting,” and it was pretty exciting stuff. Looking forward to talking more! Carrie

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