Fantasies of Childhood in Peter Pan


Many of us will have grown up with the story of Peter Pan, a children’s fantasy about escape from the adult world. However, Roisin McCloskey shows that Peter Pan is not so much a representation of childhood, as a study of a particular, adult, fantasy about childhood. Through the fantastic space of Neverland, Peter Pan offers a critique of the adult desires which were projected onto childhood in the early twentieth century.

In the late 19th century, scientists looked to literary texts to articulate a shared set of ideas about childhood; arguably, these ideas culminated in J.M. Barrie’s famous play, Peter Pan. But Peter Pan is not so much a representation of childhood, as a study of a particular, adult, fantasy about childhood. Through the fantastic space of Neverland, Peter Pan offers a critique of the adult desires which were projected onto childhood at the time. Peter Pan remains as popular today as it ever was: it might still indulge adult fantasies about childhood, and offer a pertinent critique of those fantasies.

This lecture was one of a series recorded at a workshop on Literary Criticism and the Fantastic, held at Palace Green Library as part of the exhibition, Robot!.

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