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Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209

25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. Michael Newton
Second reader: Prof. dr. Peter Liebregts

 ​
Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement  
in Twenty­First Century Memoirs and Fiction 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Xiao­Fang Chi 
s1046209 
25 June 2015 
Word count: 19,557 
MA Thesis Literary Studies: English Literature and Culture 
Leiden University 
Supervisor and first reader: Dr. Michael Newton 
Second reader: Prof. dr. Peter Liebregts 

Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. by analysing their  narratives.   Firstly. I will look at the healing effect of trauma narratives and  investigate the fascination of readers with this genre. I will analyze two novels about  growing up in confinement. I will explore the importance of attachment in the cases of children who grew up in  captivity. I will be looking at some notable and historical cases of children who grew up in  confinement.096 Days ​ (2010) by Natascha Kampusch and ​ A Stolen Life: A  Memoir​  (2011) by Jaycee Dugard. and the socio­emotional aspects of what it means to be human. dr. Peter Liebregts ABSTRACT    The aim of this thesis is to examine cases and stories about children who grew up in  confinement. Through these cases. I explore some of the devastating effects a life of confinement  can have on children. I will analyze  two memoirs by kidnap victims: ​ 3. we must not forget the trauma  they have endured and by listening to their voices we can better understand their trauma and  possible ways to heal from it. and explore the reading they can offer as works of fiction. Lastly.  . such as the trauma and developmental delay it causes. ​ Room ​ (2010) by Emma Donoghue and ​ The Boy from the Basement  (2006) by Susan Shaw. Through our cultural obsession with these children.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. Next.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2. . . . .2 Kaspar Hauser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. . . . . .2 Attachment Theory. . . .Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. . . . 37 4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Jaycee Dugard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONCLUSION . NOTABLE CASES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 The Fritzl Case . . . .19 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . .37 4. . . . . .53 6. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Kaspar Hauser Syndrome . . . . . . . . 19 3. . . 16 3. . .2 Room . . . .1 Introduction . . . MEMOIRS . . . . . . . Peter Liebregts TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . LITERARY FICTION . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 4. . . . . . . 19 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2. .28 4. .2 Natascha Kampusch . . . . . .1 Stockholm Syndrome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . dr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . WORKS CITED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 The Boy from the Basement . . . . . . 48 5. . . . . . .2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Genie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2. . . . .

Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. as it entangles children who have suffered from imprisonment within a culture. in all cases. this classification indicates a less than human status by comparing the children to animals. By analysing their narratives. Children who grew up in extreme confinement situations are often categorized in connection to stories of ‗feral children‘. Through our cultural obsession with these children.1 Introduction The aim of this thesis is to examine cases and stories about children who grew up in confinement. In Chapter 2. isolated from the outside world. the children were detained by their own family while in other instances their incarceration was the result of a kidnapping. The next one. dr. However. There are clearly problems with this link. The first case is that of Kaspar Hauser (1828-1832). we must not forget the trauma they have endured and by listening to their voices we can better understand their trauma and possible ways to heal from it.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. I will explore the importance of attachment in the cases of children who grew up in captivity. I will discuss the Fritzl case (2008). Lastly. to children who have apparently grown up outside human society. might arguably be the most well-known instance. the first welldocumented case of a neglected child. the case of Genie (discovered by the authorities in 1970). In some of the cases. Peter Liebregts 1 INTRODUCTION 1. and the socio-emotional aspects of what it means to be humans. However. The connecting factor is the shared isolation that such children experience. the children grew up in abusive situations. I will be looking at some notable and historical cases of children who grew up in confinement. This chapter showcases some of the devastating effects a life of confinement .

I will explore some literary genres by means of which these memoirs can be categorized. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. I try to understand the cultural fascination with the stories about a childhood spent in captivity. dr. By taking a closer look at the conventions within these genres.2 Attachment Theory According to the attachment theory. The memoirs 3. as well as the popularity they have enjoyed in recent years. While one protagonist had his mother by his side in captivity. In Chapter 3. the other one spent his time in solitude.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. since it is of such central importance to my analysis. we can see worked out in fiction the difference having an attachment figure in times of stress makes for the development of children. The . captivity narrative. and the need they felt as children to connect with their captors for lack of any other options. Therefore.096 Days (2010) and A Stolen Life: A Memoir (2011) reflect on the traumatic time spent in captivity. I will analyze two memoirs by kidnap victims Natascha Kampusch and Jaycee Lee Dugard. 1. but mainly on their life after their escape. it is necessary first of all to explain attachment theory. this theory claims that a secure emotional attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical for a child‘s personal development. and trauma narrative. to whom they can turn to in times of need. This attachment provides children with the much-needed sense of security and stability they need in order to grow and develop cognitively and emotionally. such as misery memoir. such as the trauma and developmental delay it causes. I will analyze two novels about growing up in confinement that feature child narrators. Peter Liebregts 2 can have on children. In Chapter 4. First developed by John Bowlby. Both Emma Donoghue‘s novel Room (2010) and Susan Shaw‘s novel The Boy from the Basement (2006) focus not only on the child‘s time spent in captivity. By comparing these novels. babies are born with an innate need to attach themselves to other people.

failure to develop an attachment.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. the attachment relationship also provides the child a frame to develop their own internal working model: ―a cognitive framework comprising mental representations for understanding the world. In his research on privation. They never had the chance to form an attachment and. Every single one of the babes chose to cling to the cloth surrogate and would only occasionally go to the other surrogate when they were hungry. 40). Peter Liebregts 3 determining factors for a child attaching itself to its caregiver are not so much food-related but are rather about the provision of security. had problems interacting with other chimps and often grew aggressive. Next to the lack of an . self and others‖ (Duchesne et al. As well as providing security for the child to explore. 40). even more so than the provision of food. in McLeod). affection. dr. the loss of or damage to an attachment. This latter result can be observed in human children too. Harlow discovered that these monkeys who were reared in isolation suffered emotional and social problems as they grew up. It provides the child with an important social and emotional framework to guide ―how children process social information and informs their future attachment behaviors‖ (Duchesne et al. and responsiveness. The experiment reached another conclusion. This experiment supports the attachment theory‘s premise that security is of utmost importance in a child‘s development. This premise is supported by Harry Harlow‘s infamous monkey experiment. affectionless psychopathy. The first choice was a steel frame holding a bottle of milk. Newborn chimps were separated from their mothers and put into a cage with a choice of two surrogate ‗mothers‘. the second choice was covered in a soft cloth but did not hold a bottle. intellectual development and physical growth‖ (qtd. as a result. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. Rutter found evidence of ―anti-social behavior. and deprivation. and disorders of language. Michael Rutter makes a distinction between privation.

This is extremely disturbing. Evidence is mounting that severe neglect places children at some of the greatest risks of long-term psychopathology. Spitz went on to publish on this topic for many years and his work inspired major changes. Rutter attests these developments to factors such as ―the lack of intellectual stimulation and social experiences which attachments normally provide‖ (qtd. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. . in McLeod). children eventually shut down psychologically and dissociate. The self is alone and exposed. to feel totally abandoned is to feel in extreme danger. (113) Images of the disturbing consequences of emotional deprivation and the lack of attachment in infants can be seen in René Spitz‘s sobering film Psychogenic Disease in Infancy (1952). vulnerable infant. There is no safe place to go. dr. Peter Liebregts 4 attachment. David Howe has found that in cases of extreme neglect in which an attachment figure is absent: The child is left without a relationship-based strategy to help him regulate his traumatic emotional arousal. Likewise.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. This film documents the isolation and its consequences on infants in institutional care. especially in the childcare sections of institutes and homes. There is no adult in sight. For a young. The experience can produce such high levels of emotional arousal. showcasing the impact of emotional deprivation on a child‘s development. No one has you in mind.

dr. But the morbid curiosity has too often failed these vulnerable children. Trauma narratives are written in abundance as part of a therapeutic healing process. The notable historical cases showed the devastating effects of privation and the trauma that the children have to endure. The writing style of the memoirs reflects the trauma of the authors. The fascination with these cases and other traumatic works are palpable in the sales figures of misery literature.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. Peter Liebregts 53 CONCLUSION By looking at these cases of children who grew up in solitary confinement. Some quote the horror-like anxiety to be the reason. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof. Genie‘s case highlights the need for attachment in order to heal from the trauma. With the help of captivity narratives. we see the importance of having an attachment figure for the development of children. perhaps the scientific community even more so. for example through the mirroring of the dissonance of traumatic memory. Children have an innate need to attach themselves to people. others find the books inspirational. The memoirs portray a heightened and literal version of the trauma. In addition to this. and the lack of such a figure impedes not only their social development but also their emotional and even physical development. Additionally. the memoirs shed some light on the process of developing Graham‘s Stockholm . Society has always been fascinated by these unimaginable cases. we get an insider‘s perspective of growing up in solitary confinement and the substantial amount of related trauma. The memoirs reflect on the traumatic time Natascha and Jaycee spent in captivity. But the exact reason why people are so fascinated with reading misery lit remains unclear. and the need they felt as children to connect with their captors for lack of other attachment options.

had no reliable caretaker to depend upon. As works of fiction. and both boys are able to find closure in the end. we notice that Charlie developed more psychological issues. . Charlie is able to work through his issues. As a result. on the other hand. Peter Liebregts 54 syndrome. something that is vital for a child‘s social and emotional development. the novels can achieve several things the documented cases could not.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. dr. The writers have the power to provide a satisfactory resolution for the children. They explore the almost inevitable outcome of children attaching themselves to their captors. with the help of the stable environment his foster family provides. Charlie. For example. However. Jack had his mother there as an attachment figure to provide security and a sensitive response. despite how unimaginable such a connection initially might seem. we can see worked out in fiction the difference having an attachment figure in times of stress has on the development of children. by comparing Room and The Boy from the Basement. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof.

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E.Closet Children: Growing Up in Confinement in TwentyFirst Century Memoirsnd Fiction XiaoFang Chi s1046209 25 June 2015MA Thesis Literary StudieEnglish Literature and Culture Leiden University Supervisor and first reader: Dr. dr. ―Mental Contentment and Physical Growth.‖ The Lancet 257. . Print. Michael Newton Second reader: Prof.M.6668 (1951) : 1316-1318. Peter Liebregts 60 Widdowson.