Things to Do with Your Imaginary Child

  • Steven Bruhm
Keywords: imaginary child, Anagrams, Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Lorrie Moore, The Night Listener, Armistead Maupin


This essay considers texts in which adults consciously invent children whom they represent to the world as “real,” children who can then investigate the limits that their inventors may test in other people. Drawing on clinical psychological theories of children’s imaginary playmates—and the value that psychologists ascribe to the juvenile practice of inventing imaginary children—I consider what the adult invention of a child might suggest about the “uses” of children more generally. Texts under consideration are Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Armistead Maupin’s The Night Listener, and Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2017.0023

Author Biography

Steven Bruhm

Dr. Steven Bruhm is Robert and Ruth Lumsden Professor of English at Western University, Canada. He is the author of Gothic Bodies: The Politics of Pain in Romantic Fiction, Reflecting Narcissus: A Queer Aesthetic, and numerous articles on the Gothic. He is co-editor (with Nat Hurley) of Curiouser: On the Queerness of Children, and is currently working on a book titled The Counterfeit Child.

How to Cite
Bruhm, S. (2018). Things to Do with Your Imaginary Child. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 9(2). Retrieved from
Articles for Special Section on Youngsters