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Various Useless and Pleasing Things: Crafty Children in the Nineteenth Century
Dr. Maura D’Amore, Chair of English and Gender & Women’s Studies at St. Michael’s College of Vermont, will deliver the annual Branton Lecture on September 27 at 4:00 in the Media Room of the Commons. All are welcome to join the English department for a lively excursion into the history of children’s literature, theories of play, and crafting: In the decades following the Civil War, toys, picture books, and miniature furniture flooded middle-class homes. For the first time, parents were urged to cultivate the imaginative capacities of young children in their homes. Never before had parents been expected to take such an active role in staging, supervising, and extending children’s play. In response to caretakers’ exhaustion and new concerns about children’s boredom, educators and reformers recommended simple craft activities as a way to keep otherwise useless (but priceless) children productively busy. In print culture from the 1860s and 1870s, we can see a new appreciation for (guided) childhood tinkering—scenes of planning, cutting, pasting, and constructing—as worthy of adult attention and wonder. We can also see the birth of a genre: that of the “craft book.” Refreshments will be served. The Branton Lecture Series honors the memory of Professor Clarence L. Branton, a long-time faculty member at W&J. Born in 1922 in Georgia, Clarence Branton earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida before leaving to serve as a field artillery officer in Europe during the second World War. (Incidentally, he remained in the Army Reserve until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1982.) After the war, he obtained both an MA and a PhD in English from Harvard University and took a position in the English department of Rutgers University. In 1955, Dr. Branton joined the faculty of Washington & Jefferson College, where he offered a wide range of courses, including several in his specialty of nineteenth-century British fiction. In 1990, he retired from W&J, having served for 15 years as chair of the Department of English and holding the Wallace Professorship of Rhetoric. After his death in 2007 in Washington DC, his wife Harriet, who was a regional historian, and his children Mary and Philip, both of whom are W&J graduates and practice medicine in the DC area, endowed this lecture in his memory. Harriet died in June 2018, so the two children carry on the legacy. The English Department and the College are most grateful to them for their generosity.

Event Details

Academic Program: English
Event Organizer: Washington & Jefferson College
Event Venue: Media Room
Washington, PA 15301 United States
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