Philosophical Children in Literary Situations: Toward a Phenomenology of Education argues that both phenomenology and children’s literature can assist one another in understanding the lived experience of children. Through careful readings of central figures in the phenomenological tradition, including Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, Costello introduces both the novice and the scholar to the phenomenological method of describing community, emotion, religion, gender, and loss—experiences that are central to all humans, but especially to the developing child. When turning to literary analysis, Costello uses the phenomenological theory discussed to open up the literary texts of familiar and award-winning children’s chapter books toward new layers of interpretation, reading such novels as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time, and Charlotte’s Web to participate in ongoing conversations about childhood perception within children’s literature studies and philosophy for children. Scholars of philosophy, education, literary studies, and psychology will find this book particularly useful.
Peter R. Costello is professor of philosophy and of public and community service at Providence College.
Chapter One: Charlotte’s Web, Temporality, and the Transitions of Growth
Chapter Two: Reading Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child as a Phenomenology of Emotion and Community
Chapter Three: A Phenomenology of Sexuality and Movement in To Kill a Mockingbird
Chapter Four: A Phenomenology of Religious Experience in A Wrinkle In Time
Chapter Five: Towards a Phenomenology of Education in Merci Suarez Changes Gears
About the Author
Readers who recognize in a child’s experience not merely an imperfect attempt at adulthood—but, rather, a unique and profound expressivity—will cherish the work that Peter Costello has advanced in Philosophical Children in Literary Situations. Costello’s gracious and deeply insightful book engages with classics of children’s literature while providing multiple, lucid points of entry into a richly-layered phenomenological method. He writes not only for philosophers but also for educators, parents, and researchers seeking new ways of understanding the complexities of gender, race, meaning, and community that shape a child’s perceptual world.
Peter Costello offers us an enlightening, emotionally attuned book about the existential education experienced by young people. By elucidating key concepts in phenomenology and reading children’s literature in light of them, Costello helps us tune more sensitively into the existential struggles through which children grow and the ways in which children’s novels enable their readers to recognize, explore, and develop new insight into both those struggles and that growth. This book will be a thought-provoking resource to those who teach children, to those who desire to think more phenomenologically about existential and pedagogical issues, and to anyone who cares to reflect upon life’s challenges in an age-sensitive manner.
This ambitious book works at the intersection of philosophy and literature. On the basis of a framework derived from phenomenology, incorporating the views of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Dewey and Freire, the author explores five literary works about children: Charlotte’s Web, The Mouse and His Child, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Wrinkle in Time and Merci Suarez Changes Gears. He shows how, in their own ways, “children are original and creative thinkers.” The book should attract a wide audience, including families, educators, philosophers and readers of literature.
Costello weaves a dense and sonorous web of connections between the various universes of phenomenological theory, literary criticism and philosophy of childhood, not neglecting forays into education and religious experience, and what it means to be a reader in the deepest sense. His extended adumbrations of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, when read in the narrative context of five classics of children’s literature, acquire an immediacy that demands our close attention, and hints at new understandings of the interpretive power of phenomenological analysis in approaching children’s lived experience.