Childhood between literature and philosophy. readings of childhood in manoel de barros’ poetry

Bernardina Leal

Childhood has been historically and socially linked to the idea of lack, absence, or incompleteness. This understanding has led to the consequent idea that the adult universe could fill it--complete it with what it is supposedly missing. Historically speaking, the adult exercise of power over children has become generalized and has acquired a strong ally in the educative process. We presume to know so much about children, and we interpret them from the point of view of what we ourselves have been, or from what we imagine we have been been. Our individual experiences are perceived as models for the infant understanding of things. Paradoxically enough, our knowledge about childhood separates us from it. We already know a lot about childhood, we think; there’s nothing more to say. But maybe that’s preferable, for if there is nothing more to say about childhood, the time to learn with children what childhood has to say to us has come. To think childhood only in the space allowed within the margins of our interpretative schemes is to mistrust the possibility that children can or have ever escaped those imposed dimensions. But, what about thinking childhood on or outside those margins? To talk about the childhood invented by the Brazilian poet Manoel de Barros, by his memories and ours, and to search for new concepts of childhood, demands a different approach. Childhood as we have come to understand here makes of teaching--as of reading and writing in general--a poetic experience, full of feelings, emotion and reason. What is proposed here as a project of inquiry is in this case the same as many others, but also profoundly different, and difficult to inaugurate, for here the object—childhood--is altered by the gaze of the inquirer herself, which implicitly changes the character and even the details of the methodology which follow from the gaze.

Childhood; Manoel de Barros; Education; Philosophy; Poetry