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Encounters with Wild Children: Temptation and Disappointment in the Study of Human Nature Hardcover – Apr 5 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (April 5 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773529721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773529724
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #904,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


We are interpretative animals. As parents, for example, we have a necessary investment in interpreting the behaviour of children. To protect them and foster them, we require proficiency at this art or science. Interpretation of the young engrosses Adriana S. Benzaquén in her cultural history Encounters with Wild Children. Understanding children can be one means to self-knowledge. This knowledge may have a private or collective character, or (in the case of literature) it may aspire to combine intimacy with universality.
Adriana S. Benzaquén focuses on children and predicaments of interpretation. The epilogue of her Encounters with Wild Children offers the moral that her erudition has earned and substantiated:

“The knowledge produced by the human sciences fosters the illusion that we know the other before actually meeting him or her . . . Equipped with scientific, ready-made knowledge we approach the other as if we knew her or him already.”

Throughout her book, Benzaquén’s asides are worthy and wise: “One troublesome property of the concept of normality is that the boundary between normal and abnormal is never fixed and exceedingly permeable.” The beginning of her book, preoccupied with laying out the terms salient to her argument and schematically reviewing previous scholarship, drags somewhat, but once she descends-or rather ascends-to the scrutiny of particular cases, Encounters with Wild Children satisfies curiosity, induces wonder, and arouses feeling. She discusses famous “samples”, such as the “savage” girl of Songi and Victor of Aveyron. George I himself took an interest in Peter of Hanover, captured in 1724. The boy’s behaviour manifests the pure unexpectedness that novelists sometimes attributes to their fictional children:

“In the beginning he sometimes kissed now the walls, now the ground, and then his hands, just as he used to unbutton the clothes of anyone whom he met and kissed them on the chest. He could not stand women, but pushed them away from him with both hands and feet. If someone showed him fruit, particularly nuts, he would fall on the ground and kiss it as well as kiss his own hands and throw kisses to everybody. He did not care much about money, but always threw it away from him, though some say that he very skilfully hid money in his hair.”

Although Benzaquén’s focus is wild children, her account teaches the reader to see more clearly how his or her existence is to one degree or another subject to multiple misconstructions-sometimes out of wrongheaded benevolence, often out of fear, and always out of the subjugation of everyone, interpreted and interpreter alike, to the confines of one historical horizon. Those confines are as strict as an island’s. Benzaquén opens and offers room for interpretation-some of the most important living space on the planet.
Eric Miller (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada

About the Author

Adriana S. Benzaquén is assistant professor, history, Mount Saint Vincent University.

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Format: Hardcover
Book in very good condition. Seller did not mention the book was coming from the Vancouver library (several stamps and bar code).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
vanished societies June 10 2007
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
How real were the wild children of history? The book looks at centuries of European folklore, that claim to have had instances of wild children abandoned in the wilderness, and perhaps raised by animals. The archetypal example is of course Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome. Little credence is given to that tale.

But the book's bulk is closer in time. From medieval times onwards. The so-called Peter of Hanover and the wild girl of Songi are two such examples. Several others are also presented. Forget the stuff about the wild animals raising the kids. Most or perhaps all of these children can be seen as tragic cases of abandoned children or runaways. Who somehow retained enough wits to survive in a hand to mouth existence. What the examples do is let the author analyse not so much the children themselves, but the societies that rescued them. And the subsequent efforts to educate and assimilate the kids. All this in days when there were no social sciences.

So the surviving tracts about the wild children are lens into societies that are now vanished. In some ways, the societies are as strange and lost to us as the children they tried to raise.
I like ebook March 21 2015
By David Wellendorf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
ebook better than printed book