Economies of Childness in Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming
In this paper I focus on the ways in which multiple constructions of childhood are produced, consumed and exchanged as child characters negotiate the adult world in Homecoming (1981), the first of Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman novels. Drawing on Peter Hollindale’s ideas about interactions and exchanges between children and adults, I explore the ways in which the agency of Voigt’s child characters is limited and conditioned by adult ideas about them. Yet at the same time, the children are often depicted as being able to turn these ideas to their advantage. In Homecoming’s symbolic and material economies, questions about trust, risk and value come to the fore, painting a picture of precarious youth that both reflects and expands existing debates on childhood outside the text. The paper is framed in terms of entrepreneurialism, the criminality ascribed to unaccompanied children, questions of autonomy and capacity and, finally, constructions of gender.