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The Mirror Staged: Pictures of Babies in Baby Books

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This talk focuses on the many “baby books” currently available that consist of pictures of babies, and considers how these pictures might represent replications or restagings of Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage—that key moment in psychic development when a baby views its image in the mirror and understands that the image is in some sense itself, but also, a more perfect version of itself, an “ideal I” which the baby then strives to emulate. Viewed as re-stagings of the mirror stage, the images in baby books seem to offer their young viewers images of babies to identify with and see as what they ought to be themselves. As products of the marketplace, these books represent currently powerful cultural ideas about babyhood, so an exploration of them and a close look at the kinds of pictures found in them should reveal much about what they are telling their implied baby reader/viewers (and the adults who read along with them) about what it now means to be a baby, and about what is now the right kind of baby to be.


Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Winnipeg, Perry Nodelman is the author of a hundred or so articles on various aspects of children’s literature in scholarly journals and of three books on the subject: Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books, The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, the third edition of which was written in collaboration with Mavis Reimer, and most recently, The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2008. He has also published four novels for young adults, as well as seven others in collaboration with Carol Matas,including, most recently, the Ghosthunters trilogy.

This talk is part of the Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge series.

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