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The eternal flower of the child : the recognition of childhood in Zeami's educational theory of Noh theatre

Kenklies, Karsten (2018) The eternal flower of the child : the recognition of childhood in Zeami's educational theory of Noh theatre. Educational Philosophy and Theory. ISSN 0013-1857

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European theorists of childhood still tend to locate the first positive acknowledgements of childhood as a human developmental period in its own positive right between the 16th-18th century in Europe. Even though the findings of Ariès (1960) have been constantly challenged, it still remains a commonplace, especially within the history of education, to refer to Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the 18th century as one of the earliest and most prominent conceptualisers of childhood as a positive period that must not be evaluated in the light of its distance to adulthood but for its inherent value as an important and unmissable period of human life. Such a view is as unhistorical as it is biased and eurocentred. This paper endeavours to shed at least a small light on the history of education and of childhood outwith the usual focus. The central objects of examination are the theoretical treatises of Zeami Motokiyo regarding the Noh theatre which have long been recognised as one of the great cultural achievements of humankind. Despite their acknowledged importance, theorists of education have hardly engaged with these treatises even though they present us with a whole theory of education that also embraces a very original and positive theory of childhood. Given that the treatises originate from the 14th-early 15th century, they pre-date everything the typical Western History of Education would bring forth as the beginning of a positive childhood and a pedagogy that acts accordingly.