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Peller, L. (1959). Poor Monkey. The Child in Literature: By Peter Coveney. London: Rockliff Publishers, 1957. 297 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 28:271-272.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28:271-272

Poor Monkey. The Child in Literature: By Peter Coveney. London: Rockliff Publishers, 1957. 297 pp.

Review by:
Lili Peller

This is a study of childhood as it has been presented in literature written for adults from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Among the authors discussed are: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Henry James, Forrest Reid, Mark Twain, Butler, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence. Through the image of the child Blake and Wordsworth expressed something they considered of great significance and thus introduced an essentially new element into literature. 'Within the course of a few decades the child emerges from comparative unimportance to become the focus of an unprecedented literary interest.' For this development Coveney sees the following reasons: 'In childhood lay the perfect image of insecurity and isolation, fear and bewilderment, vulnerability and potential violation', emotions the authors themselves experienced. The author also discusses Freud's Infantile Sexuality and comments that in spite of Freud's destruction of the idea of childhood's innocence, his ideas were more in sympathy with the romantic assertion of childhood's importance and its vulnerability to social victimization than with the religious concept of the child's corrupt nature. Coveney goes on: 'The religious idea of the child's fallen nature (which if taken seriously is a much more total denial of innocence than Freud's) never roused such popular hostility as the idea of the child's sexual nature'. There is an extensive bibliography of literary criticism.

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