The Center asked Professor Kidd to write up a little introductory piece, and he kindly obliged us! So we’ll turn things over to the dear doctor K:
A Few Words by Kenneth Kidd on Kenneth Kidd
In graduate school I had no idea one could specialize in children's literature, so I started out as a nineteenth-century Americanist with side interests in gender/queer studies. I wrote my dissertation on (mostly American) discourses of boyhood from the nineteenth century forward, and that eventually became my first book, Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale (U of Minnesota Press, 2004). The book explores how the pseudo-science of "boyology" intersects with and draws energy from what I call the "feral tale", the story of a "wild child" raised by animals or otherwise away from human culture. By that point I had gotten active with the Children's Literature Association and also the MLA's Division on Children's Literature. I had also moved from my first faculty appointment at Eastern Michigan University to the University of Florida, where I now teach. Both universities have excellent programs in children's literature and so I've had the benefit of interacting with other like-minded scholars locally as well as through my professional networks. I've published on a number of topics, and have coedited two essay collections that reflect particular interests – Wild Things: Children's Culture and Ecocriticism (Wayne State U Press, 2004) and more recently Over the Rainbow: Queer Children's and Young Adult Literature (U of Minnesota Press, 2012). Both are the first such collections on their respective topics.
My most recent book is Freud in Oz: At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children's Literature, a portion of which I've suggested as reading for the brown bag session (we’ll be reading chapter two, “Child Analysis, Play, and the Golden Age of Pooh”). I had a lot of fun researching and writing this project, which I would describe as intellectual and cultural history rather than literary criticism. It is most definitely not applied psychoanalytic criticism; rather, it's a study of the many relays and exchanges between psychoanalysis and children's literature. Freud in Oz continues some themes and emphases from Making American Boys but is more comprehensively concerned with children's literature. Both projects are basically "history of ideas" scholarship.
I chose the second chapter for our brown bag discussion for several reasons. First, it showcases my general strategy in the book, namely to historicize the relation between psychoanalysis and children's literature while also theorizing new ways of thinking about both. I suggest that the attention of child analysts to the play and "forms" of childhood amounts to a kind of "children's literature" all its own. The chapter makes clear my fascination with the play of tropes (including the trope of play) across multiple discourses and professional registers. Also, the chapter is concerned with a canonical children's book, one of the so-called classics of the so-called Golden Age of Anglo-American children's literature. I'm interested in the uses to which such books are put, how they are mobilized in service of various aims and ends. Finally, Chapter 2 is connected to two book projects now in progress, The Children's Classic, and Philosophy, Theory, and Childhood. The former explores the children's literary classic as a cultural formation and fantasy; the second takes up theory "for beginners" and philosophy "for children," making the case that philosophy and theory depend upon childhood and children's literature more than has been recognized. I'll be reading from a chapter in progress from Philosophy, Theory, and Childhood when I visit next Spring,and I'm very much looking forward to that visit, and to the brown bag discussion on Halloween!
Kenneth's Book Picks (with the understanding, of course, that there's no such thing as Essential Books):
Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read
Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism
Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am
James F. English, The Culture of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value
Emer O'Sullivan, Comparative Children's Literature
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity
Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection