An infant phenomenon in colonial Australia: The case of Anna Maria Quinn, 1854–1858
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Nicole Anae
This article investigates the cultural and scientific discourses that informed journalistic commentary about a young child actor as a key to understanding conceptions of the human mind in the 1850s. The publicity about Anna Maria Quinn (1848–1920), one of the most significant child players of Shakespeare ever to appear in colonial Australia, suggests a heightening awareness of childhood in mid-nineteenth-century Australia. It involved, to some degree, not only the recognition of the infant prodigy as a child, but also the construction of a loose consensus of what defined childhood. Reportage such as that about Anna Maria Quinn indicates that journalists defined infant prodigies primarily by what they were not: ordinary. Press accounts suggest that young individuals demonstrating exceptionality distinguished themselves by virtue of their uniqueness, implying the existence of a common understanding of the characteristics defining the “ordinary” child.