PAST, PRESENT, AND PERSONAL: The Family and the Life Course in Historical Perspective by John Demos

PAST, PRESENT, AND PERSONAL: The Family and the Life Course in Historical Perspective

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This book of essays cmtains theoretical generalizations on the subject of the family. Demos considers these pieces to be popularizations, but in fact they are fairly technical, footnoted, and full of jargon. Family history proves a surprisingly elusive subject for the layman to grasp, at least as written about here. The problem may be partly that Family History originated with French scholars, who can carry off vague generalizations with much more panache than anybody else. They can choose the captivating detail that makes it worth reading about what it was like to be a baby in the Middle Ages, for example. Demos does not show an acute sense of humor here. He entitles one chapter ""The Rise and Fall of Adolescence,"" a phrase that needs only a leer to transform it into a joke. There is also academic doublespeak: in the middle of a discussion about something called ""mean household size,"" the author confesses, ""Actually, mean household size is not by itself a very interesting datum. . ."" If this is a true popular version of Family History, then perhaps it is one of those disciplines best left to the experts.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press