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Folklore: It's not just for peasants anymore.


February 20th, 2009

(no subject) @ 01:41 pm

raven_blue:
I posted this to my journal inresponse to the daily writing challenge but felt that the topic desered broader attention.  At the end of my little essay I pose a question that I feel if well suited to discussion in a community catering to folklore. Any ideas, thoughts of input would be most welcome.

There are so many variables that might effect this question.  Many cultures around the world hold that adulthood begins at age 12 but that the path of adulthood itself has many phases so when one becomes an adult they are not in all ways an adult. Others hold that aduthood begins at the age when puberty hits, commonly age 13. This is a period when we are bilogically entering adulthood but emotinoally we are far from it, which brings the question... Is adulthood a biological or emotional thing?

The Victorian were the first to become obsessed with ths question and their answer I think caused irreprable harm to both children and adults.  Namley in the way they created a magical mystique surrounding childhood, or what they called the nursury phase. This transformed children into something theynever were and trapped them in a state where they could never grow up while at the same time the victorian practicality dictated the child must grow up and when the time came, usually at age 15 for the upper classes and age 12 for the lower classes the child found himself forced out of the comforts of what was to be an eternal childhood and forced into a world of adult rules that he was woefully equipped to deal with. We are still working through this as a culture today everytime we commend a child for his imagination one day and demand a child to grow up the next.

If the Victorians looked awkardly at childhood then we today, especially in America look as awkwardly at adulthood.  We treat  children like small versions of grown ups then at age 18 we are called adult's no matter how we act and can even serve in the military where we are called on to kill and be killed. Yet at this same age when we can vote for political office we can not legally drink alcholol. In truth many of college age show themselves to be far less "adult" than many children.

So the question really isnt, or at least shouldnt be at what age do we become adults but how should we view children and adult as seperate beings and at how should we transition the child from his unique world into that of the adult in a manner that does not harm the very creative and highly imaginitive mind of the child but that also does not hinder the practical mind of the adult?

To this end I think we are lacking  a rite of passage that transitions us from childhood to adulthood, something that locks in our souls the nature of the child mind with its desire to rework the world, while unlocking the potential of the adult mind to take practical steps in actually reworking the world.
 
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From:dirty_eskimo
Date:February 20th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
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Although the discipline of folkloristics and considerations of childhood are intricately connected, you don't frame your inquiry folkloristically. What exactly are you trying to achieve by posting this here?

I think your premise is based on many generalizations, so much so as to be considered inaccurate. The situation is hardly as black as white as you portray it. What scholarship are you reading that makes these assumptions?

First, the Victorians were hardly the first to consider these questions of childhood. It's a commonly held, but utterly false, assumption that a distinct notion of childhood did not exist before the Victorian period. In the Western world alone this has been thoroughly and convincingly challenged. For two studies that dispute this from examining hagiographical accounts, see Heffernon's Saints and Society, and Finucane's The Rescue of the Innocents. Both offer concrete evidence that medieval peoples had concrete notions of childhood development.

What evidence do you have that "we treat children like small versions of grown ups?" Who is the "we" that you speak of? Is this merely anecdotal evidence or do you have empirical data? I don't buy this assumption as you state it; in fact, I would argue that it is quite the opposite.

You make two other assumptions that I also question, as they are also part of that romanticized image culled by the Victorians: "the very creative and highly imaginitive mind of the child but that also does not hinder the practical mind of the adult?" Are you arguing that children are always creative and adults are always practical? This notion of children (at least younger children) as non-rational has some basis in psychological literature, but the idea of childhood "creativity" stems again from the degenerationism theory vogue in the the nineteenth century, mainly that children (like non-literate cultures, or the "primitives" studied by anthropologists) were closer to nature, spoke "natural poetry" rather than language, and in effect were better because they hadn't yet devolved.

As for a lack of transitioning rites of passage, another false assumption that can be refuted with a few positive examples: sweet sixteen birthday parties, Quinceañera, high school graduation, all sorts of things in college, etc.

Try to focus your argument into something specific and avoid generalizations, otherwise it's difficult to take this query seriously.
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From:raven_blue
Date:February 21st, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
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"you don't frame your inquiry folkloristically" - I am choosing to keep the topic more broad based so that I can get feedback from a wider range, among them victorian studies, Modern childhood development, folklore, childrns lit, etc.

"What exactly are you trying to achieve by posting this here?" - It should be obvious based on what I said. how should we view children and adult as seperate beings and at how should we transition the child from his unique world into that of the adult in a manner that does not harm the very creative and highly imaginitive mind of the child but that also does not hinder the practical mind of the adult?

"I think your premise is based on many generalizations, so much so as to be considered inaccurate." - I disagree.



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From:raven_blue
Date:February 21st, 2009 03:53 am (UTC)
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"First, the Victorians were hardly the first to consider these questions of childhood." - I strongly recomend thatyou read what isposted before responding. I never said they were the first to consider the question. I said and I quote..."The Victorian were the first to become obsessed with ths question" By saying the Victorian it should be clear that I am talking about the broader victorian people and social structure and not individual academics. To this end the Victorians were the first to give such intense scrutiny to the concept of childhood and make it a topic for common discussion. No one argues that the Victorians elevated childhood into what we view it as being today. Childrens literature, while predating the era came into its own during the Victorian era which is why it is considered the golden age of childrens literature. And at a social level here is where the real work towards protecting children from working conditions came into existence with the well know child labor reforms, espeically in London.

"It's a commonly held, but utterly false, assumption that a distinct notion of childhood did not exist before the Victorian period." - Considering I never made thsi claim I have no desire to argue it with you. In the future I would caution that it is very impolite to put false arguments into anothers mouth.

"For two studies that dispute this from examining hagiographical accounts, see Heffernon's Saints and Society, and Finucane's The Rescue of the Innocents. Both offer concrete evidence that medieval peoples had concrete notions of childhood development." - See above. Since this was never my claim I will not waste time arguing against it.

"What evidence do you have that "we treat children like small versions of grown ups?" Who is the "we" that you speak of? Is this merely anecdotal evidence or do you have empirical data? I don't buy this assumption as you state it; in fact, I would argue that it is quite the opposite." - I am begining to think you are the sort of person who must have a spreadsheet and statistical data before you can make an informed opinion based on personal obersvation. The data is there and is rather copius from newspaper report, to anecdotal evidence to crime statistics. For example, no ne denies that c hildren are engaging in sexual activity at younger ages (an adult endeavor), or that children are commiting crimes at younger ages ( adult crimes suchs as murder) or we can examine childrens beauty pagents where little girls are made up to mirror very adult women, or the old little league where a past time has been tainted with a level of very adult, near professional level competition. Simpply put, children are being treated as children have been treated since the era of the Victorians while at teh same time they are being viewed and are viewing themselves in a more and more adult fashion.

"I don't buy this assumption as you state it; in fact, I would argue that it is quite the opposite." - That is your right not to "buy" anything and you are welcome to your ideas. But you have failed on two accounts here. 1. I am not actually selling an idea for anyone to buy into and 2. you didnt bother to offer an argument to anything I said beyond how wrong you think I am, which is perfectly alright. You have every right to you opinion and your interpretation of the facts at hand.

"You make two other assumptions that I also question, as they are also part of that romanticized image culled by the Victorians:" - Imagine that... The only problem is I am not making an argument for any sort of romanticised Victorian era, so again I wont bother to defend an argument I never made.

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From:raven_blue
Date:February 21st, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
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"Are you arguing that children are always creative and adults are always practical?" - Not at all. I am stating, with a veritable load of supporting evidence, both factual and anecdotal that the world a child lives in is goverened by the imaginitve mind through the auspices of play and that a childs litereature is dedeicated primarily to imagination (even teaching guides convery knowledge in a manner that plays to a child imaginitive mind) while adults live in a world that require practicality. This practicality can be measured with imagination and is at its best when it does so but simply put the world would grind to a halt if adults play acted their daily lives the way children do. Unless you spend you afternoon playing cops and robbers, or Harry Potter, or Star Wars or the Lone Ranger. And for the record I never said that adults were practical. I said that the Victorians were practical. and I never used the word always. So again you are putting arguments into my mouth that were never there.

"stems again from the degenerationism theory vogue in the the nineteenth century" - And that is precisely my point when I stated "I think caused irreprable harm to both children and adults".

"As for a lack of transitioning rites of passage, another false assumption that can be refuted with a few positive examples: sweet sixteen birthday parties, Quinceañera, high school graduation, all sorts of things in college, etc." -


I am not framing it in a folkloristic manner at this time because I am interested in getting other points of view.My consideration is in getting other people input on how in a modern, secular world we can recreate and give new meaning to the idea of rites of passage.

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From:raven_blue
Date:February 21st, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
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"First, the Victorians were hardly the first to consider these questions of childhood"

I actually stated that they were the first "were the first to become obsessed with ths question" and that is true. It was here that the birth of childhood education can be traced and the "golden age" of childrens literature was born. The Victorian gave very sepcial interest to the idea of childhood.


"It's a commonly held, but utterly false, assumption that a distinct notion of childhood did not exist before the Victorian period"

Again, I never made this assertion. Please read what I posted. The Victorian were the first to make it an obsession. and treat it as a topic of common study in a broader context. Further I am not dealing with the subject of the medieval child as it has very little impact on the modern notion of childhood. The age of reason and the later Victorian supplanted the earlier concept of childhood. AGain I am looking at the concept of the rites of passage and how in a modern world they can be recreated with new meaning.

"What evidence do you have that "we treat children like small versions of grown ups?" Who is the "we" that you speak of? Is this merely anecdotal evidence or do you have empirical data? I don't buy this assumption as you state it; in fact, I would argue that it is quite the opposite."

Frankly, a simple look at the world is all it takes. I would recommend that you step away from a book and look at the world. Bu if you must need the books, there are many studies on the way we view children. A simple search is all it takes.

"sweet sixteen birthday parties, Quinceañera, high school graduation, all sorts of things in college, etc. " - None of these are designed to transition a child into adulthood. They are celebrations if certain periods of ones life but a celebration is not a transitional rite of passage. Frankly you have listed parties and nothing more.

- The Sweet Sixteen does not ceremonially make one an adult. At best it marks the moment when one can drive but most would argue that at age 15, before the sweet 16 you are no longer a child.

- The Quinceanera, while at one time a rite of passage has become just a Spanish version of the Sweet Sixteen party.

- High School Graduation only transitions one from high school to college but not from childhood to adulthood. Note that a senior inhigh school can be 18 years oldm which is considered on almost every culture an adult yet thsi is before the graduation ceremony, erog it is not a rite of passage.

I would recomend doing a little more research into what a rite of passage actually is, perhaps Fraziers goldenbough for an intoruduction and go from there into more recent anthropological studies and how theese rites have manifested in various cultures around the world.

"Try to focus your argument into something specific and avoid generalizations" - Thank you but I am content with what I wrote and how I wrote it and the reasons behind why I wrote it.

"otherwise it's difficult to take this query seriously." - Feel free to not take it seriously then. But I would caution that before you go to such lengths to argue against someone you should actually pay attention to what is being said and not fall back so frequently on inserting your own words into other mouths.

If the moderators of this forum feel this is not a proper topic of this forum then I would ask only that remove it.

Yes, it's a real discipline!

Folklore: It's not just for peasants anymore.