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Chapter 3

EN 3636 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Jansenism, Original Sin, Century Child


Department
English
Course Code
EN 3636
Professor
Richardine Woodall
Chapter
3

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September 24. 2017
EN3636
The contradictory nature of ideas and emotions concerning childhood are found throughout
historical literature
Depravity/Innocence
St. Augustine (354-430)
o Concluded that the taint of sin was passed down from generation to generation
through creation
o Original sin could only be remitted through baptism
o Child is seen as a willful creature no different from an adult
o The idea of infants being born in sin prevailed until the twelfth century over the
opposing one of infant innocence
Luther and other Protestants of the Reformation reasserted importance of original sin
o Thought infant hearts craved adultery, fornication, impure desires, lewdness, idol
worship, belief in magic, hostility, quarrelling, passion, anger, strife, dissension,
fastidiousness, hatred, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, and more
o Original sin was believed to be deep-seated in the child
o Only accepted innocence of children during first five or six years of life
English and American Puritans believed children were born with evil in their hearts
o However, they believed children could be changed as they were ready to receive good
or evil drop by drop
o Likened children to young twigs which could be bent the right or wrong way
Jansenists and Catholic Puritans condemned the corruption of children
o Believed a child's reason was more feeble because they had no experience of the
world
Notion of original innocence in children is rooted in the Christian tradition
Monasteries praised childhood in early middle ages
Underlying conceptions of childhood oscillated between good or bad supernatural power
Bartholomew wrote about the child having a state of natural innocence
Seventeenth and eighteenth century Americans believed in the innocence of their offspring
An association of childhood with innocence became deeply embedded within Western
culture after the romantics in the nineteenth century
Nature/Nurture
Twelfth and thirteenth century France felt that nurturing a child would only be effective if
it was in harmony with its nature which was determined by class and gender
Believed a child's true nature would come out if it needed to react against an unsuitable
environment
Medieval mind believed the nature one is born with is the most important influence on life
o This mindset suited the hereditary aristocracy of the time
Later Middle Ages believed children to be like soft wax, which could be moulded in
various ways or as a tender branch which needed to be trained in the right direction
Educators identified childhood as a period in life when people were most receptive to
teaching and so it was important to provide good examples
The nature vs nurture balance shifted towards the latter from the renaissance onwards
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