Growing sideways
: challenging boundaries between childhood and adulthood in twenty-first century Britain

  • Anne Malewski

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines changing boundaries between childhood and adulthood in twenty-first century British society and culture through the concept of growth in order to investigate alternatives to conventional ideas of growing up. It is the first in-depth academic study to consider growing sideways as a distinct and important discourse that challenges, and provides an alternative to, the discourse of upwards growth, previously identified as a pervasive grand narrative that privileges adulthood (Trites, 2014). The thesis demonstrates that twenty-first century Britain is a particular historical and socio-cultural moment at which boundaries between childhood and adulthood are widely debated, policed, and contested. Building on usages of the phrase growing sideways in Shane Meadows’s film and television cycle This Is England (2006‒2015) and Kathryn Bond Stockton’s study The Queer Child or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (2009), and on pre-existing terminology and theories around non-normative growth, this thesis develops growing sideways as a concept that queers the grand narrative of upwards growth by destabilising childhood and adulthood, and the boundaries between them. This concept is refined and complicated through close readings of twenty-first century British children’s literature, television series, film, and participatory events, focusing on three conceptual areas in turn. First, the thesis explores how, because appearance is a flawed signifier of age, bodily and vestimentary boundaries between childhood and adulthood are transgressed through passing and cross-dressing. Second, the thesis argues that conventional behavioural and attitudinal boundaries between childhood and adulthood are broadly and prominently challenged through play, particularly performative role play and playfulness as a long-term attitude. Third, the thesis considers endeavours that seek resistance to, and release from, containment within spatial boundaries between childhood and adulthood, which are shaped by power structures biased, through the grand narrative of growth, towards adulthood. Investigating these age boundaries around appearance, play, and space, the thesis traces growing sideways as an emerging structure of feeling (Raymond Williams, 1977) and explores strategies of sideways growth
    Date of Award7 Feb 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorLisa Sainsbury (Supervisor) & Alison Waller (Supervisor)

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