chapter  5
Postmodern Picturebooks and the Transmodern Self
ByKAREN COATS
Pages 14

There is a long and fairly disreputable (or at least contestable) tradition in Children’s Studies of gauging what a culture believes about its children by looking at the way it portrays them in art. Philippe Ariès’s primary methodology in his controversial yet still infl uential book Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life is to look at medieval representations of children’s faces, bodies, and clothes; he infamously concludes that childhood didn’t exist as a concept in Europe before the European Middle Ages. Eva M. Simms, in a forthcoming book, turns Ariès’s notion on its head: using art but also adding in a brilliant reading of the Children’s Crusade, she concludes that it wasn’t a notion of childhood that was lacking, but a fi rm sense of adulthood with its attendant rites of passage that kept European peoples from making solid distinctions between childhood and maturity. She points to the importance of a journey away from home, and the emergence of self-refl exive art, as well as to portraits that place age and youth in contradistinction with one another, as her source texts.