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  • 2020SmithPhD

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The figure of the child in British cinema

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Matt Smith
Publication date2020
Number of pages235
Awarding Institution
Award date10/12/2019
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the cinema in Britain becomes the site on which childhood is most frequently projected. Through an analysis of these projections of childhood via a range of case studies that encompass early cinema, pre and post-war film and contemporary cinema, this book interprets the figure of the child as a device through which to explore and reflect upon issues of nationhood and national culture, race, empire, class, politics and gender.

The child that emerges in this study is a singularly mobile figure, deployed across generic boundaries, throughout the history of British cinema and able to embody a range of often competing discourses regarding the health and well-being of the nation.

This study is a theoretically informed interpretation of a group of films and is directed towards producing a new understanding of British cinema. It argues that in their remarkable textual and extra-textual mobility the child can come to represent the unfixed nature of "Britishness" as well as the impossibility of a British national cinema - a cinema which like the child, has always been unfixed, transnational and changeable. Centrally this project seeks to add to the growing body of literature concerning the figure of the child on screen but does so in the specific context of British national cinema and ideas of Britishness. The Italian, German, American, French and Chinese child are routinely and rigorously observed figures, whilst the British child is, as of yet, largely unstudied.