Richard Bates (University of Nottingham), ‘How does one become a parenting guru? Exploring the childhood and archives of a French child-rearing authority, Françoise Dolto’.

Since the 1970s, millions of French children have been reared following the ideas and advice of Françoise Dolto (1908-1988), a psychoanalyst who rose to prominence on French state radio in 1976. Dolto presented herself as a radical advocate of children’s autonomy and liberal education, in opposition to a supposedly-dominant authoritarian approach.

This paper looks at how Dolto’s later career and attitudes were shaped by her childhood and adolescence in the interwar French bourgeoisie, and her encounters with the ‘Victorian’ values of the social and medical elite of that period. It will compare her experiences to those of others including her close French contemporary Simone de Beauvoir, and her American counterpart, Benjamin Spock. It will draw on correspondence, archival evidence and sociological studies to nuance, and sometimes undermine, the narratives put forward Dolto’s carefully-framed memoirs. This raises broader questions about the role of archival fragments in the creation and challenging of personal and collective myths.

Monday 22nd February (week 7) URS 2s26, 1.10 pm

All welcome!

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