Ambiguity, Children, Representation, and Sexuality

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CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, ISSN: 1481-4374, Vol: 12, Issue: 4

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Lumby, Catharine
Purdue University (bepress); Purdue University Press
Social Sciences; Arts and Humanities; Comparative Literature; Critical and Cultural Studies
article description
In her article Ambiguity, Children, Representation, and Sexuality Catharine Lumby considers current and historical scholarly and popular debates about the representation of children, including concerns about their sexualisation in such representations. The article begins by examining images taken by photographers in the Victorian era, including Charles Dodgson and Julia Cameron, and asks not only how the gaze of the photographer frames the child but how the child returns the adult gaze. Lumby seeks to problematize our understanding of the ways in which images sexualize children. Drawing on the work of James Kincaid, it examines discourses that frame children as, on one hand, naturally innocent, yet, on the other, as unnaturally corruptible. It explores how these discourses underpin current popular debates about the alleged sexualisation of children through amateur and commercial photography. Animating Lumby's argumentation are the questions: what draws us to images of children? What disturbs us about them? and what is at stake in the gaze of the child? Ultimately, Lumby argues that anxieties about representations of children are always located in anxieties about the ambiguity of the boundaries between childhood and adulthood. © Purdue University.