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About this book

This invaluable Guide surveys the key critical works and debates in the vibrant field of children's literature since its inception. Leading expert Pat Pinsent combines a chronological overview of developments in the genre with analysis of key theorists and theories, and subject-specific methodologies.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
The second half of the twentieth century witnessed considerable changes in how the academic establishment regarded the study of children’s literature. From being an optional supplement on teacher training courses (on which, at the beginning of this period, students were not even awarded degrees), it had become, by the end of the century, a respectable academic discipline, attracting both undergraduates and a significant number of graduates studying for higher degrees. This process was inevitably accompanied by changes in the kinds of recommended critical and theoretical texts, shifting from handbooks on pedagogy to theoretical material comparable to that presented to students of adult literature. In the early part of the period, a dichotomy was sometimes claimed between ‘book’ people (literary scholars) and ‘child’ people (educationalists). However, since the 1980s, children’s literature studies have been dominated by what might be termed ‘theory’ people. This book traces these developments and points readers towards some of the most significant critical writing, especially that which scrutinises children’s texts from this period.
Pat Pinsent

Readers

Frontmatter

Chapter One. Beginnings

Abstract
It is unsurprising that children’s literature study as an academic discipline was not taken seriously at university level until quite late in the twentieth century. The discipline of English literature itself had for many years been regarded as something that any educated person (man?) would pick up incidentally; traditionally only Greek and Latin were seen as subjects that demanded serious study. As a result, academic scholarship was fairly slow in interrogating even the classics of children’s literature; there was a relatively small market for books which regarded children’s literature as more than an adjunct to literature written for adults.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Two. Child Readers

Abstract
Traditionally, adult writers about children’s literature have tended to be divided into ‘book’ people and ‘child’ people, the former starting from a background of literary studies, the latter being classroom orientated and looking at the texts in the context of their suitability for ‘real’ children.1 Despite its flaws, this simplistic distinction (there are many writers about children’s literature who have their feet in both camps) embodies an element of truth, and to this extent it is convenient in this chapter to focus on attempts to take into account the children who in most instances form the primary audience for the literature being discussed.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Three. Narrative and Children’s Literature

Abstract
It could be claimed that, like the majority of books about children’s literature, the preceding chapters of this volume have started from the unquestioned assumption that we all know what constitutes children’s literature. John Rowe Townsend’s pragmatic definition, which simply identifies a children’s book as one appearing on the children’s list of a publisher,1 has been queried by many theorists, without any universally recognised resolution of the problem having ever been reached. Barbara Wall (1991) quotes Neil Philip’s criticism of Townsend’s implicit acceptance of the total reliability of the publisher’s classification:
■ The distinction between adult literature and children’s literature … would be more valid if one could reliably decide after reading, on technical, structural, linguistic or thematic grounds, whether or not a book was for children: especially if such a decision convincingly reversed publishers’ judgements on occasion. (1991: 1, quoting Philip 1984: 15, italics original) □
Pat Pinsent

Genres

Frontmatter

Chapter Four. Fairytales

Abstract
Some of the earliest scholarly approaches to children’s literature emerged from work in the areas of child psychology and psychotherapy. It was perhaps inevitable that the main field of such explorations should be that of the fairytale, given Freud’s emphasis on the formative role of childhood in the development of the psyche, together with the association of these stories with infancy.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Five. Fantasy

Abstract
‘Fantasy doesn’t really relate to the real world.’ Thus Joanna Trollope, author of a reworking of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, is quoted in The Sunday Times (6/10/13) as saying. Fantasy stories, she also observes, give ‘little moral guidance’ to the young.1 While Trollope seems to be taking a narrow view of fantasy, confined to series such as Twilight and The Hunger Games that address teenagers, there is no doubt that children’s fiction presenting what might variously be termed as imaginary, make-believe, magic or mythic worlds has attracted censure from at least the eighteenth century. In spite of this, a number of writers and critics have argued that this perennially popular genre is in some instances the best or indeed the only way to express truths and perceptions that lie beyond consensus ‘reality’. A markedly contrasting view to that of Trollope was stated by Salman Rushdie in a BBC Television programme in 1990: ‘Fantasy is not escapism: it is a way of defining and dreaming the world.’2 Consistent with this more positive approach is the way in which fantasy is often used as a vehicle for psychological, philosophical or religious explorations, instead of the socio-historical data more appropriate to realistic fiction.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Six. Visual Texts

Abstract
Throughout the ages, children have been introduced to reading by means of texts bearing pictures as well as words, but it is only in recent years that critical distinctions have been drawn between books where the function of such pictures is merely to illustrate the verbal material, and those where, in one way or another, the pictures have a major role to play in the narrative and characterisation, a role which is complementary or sometimes even contradictory to the verbal text.1 The artwork in both types of book is often of a high standard, frequently receiving its own plaudits from art critics, but the focus in the current chapter is on criticism concerned with the interplay between narrative (generally through word) and picture.2 The development of such criticism has gone hand in hand with picturebook evolution itself, notably in the years since the publication of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963).
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Seven. Poetry and Drama

Abstract
It is paradoxical that while poetry has traditionally been seen as the most exalted form of literature, and theorising about it, by such eminent writers as Aristotle, Horace and Sidney, has formed the foundation for later literary criticism, there has been very little sustained study of poetry for children. Indeed, in a recently published guide, The Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature (2010), it is allotted less than a single page, in contrast to longer discussions of such more topical issues as gender studies and race. In their contribution to this Companion, ‘Sidelines: Some neglected dimensions of children’s literature and its scholarship’, Evelyn Arizpe and Morag Styles, with Abigail Rokison, comment: ‘In many respects, it is outrageous that as significant a genre as poetry for children should be tucked away in a chapter dealing with Cinderella forms of children’s literature’ (2010: 133). This marginalisation of a body of work for children to which many major poets, both in the past and today, have contributed, seems to result partly from an all too prevalent fear of poetry among teachers, which has stood in the way of quality presentation in the classroom, and partly from problems of definition: what exactly is children’s poetry? While poetry features in most of the histories of children’s literature, the question of how, and indeed whether, poetry for children differs from that written with an adult audience in mind, is not always confronted. Even when it is, no definitive answer is given.
Pat Pinsent

Theoretical Approaches

Frontmatter

Chapter Eight. Gender Studies and Queer Theory

Abstract
In tracing the development of literary criticism focusing on aspects of gender — both in general terms and in relation to children’s literature — the role of feminist scholars, who were pioneers in voicing a raised awareness of bias, is fundamental. It was not until well after the publication of seminal texts in the field of feminist criticism that attention was given to ‘masculinist’ issues or the significance in children’s literature of what had previously been seen as ‘deviant’ behaviour in the area of gender. The roots of early feminism, and the resulting attention to the ways in which books influenced, and were influenced by, sexist attitudes, can be traced back to the 1880s and before. Nevertheless, Maggie Humm claims that ‘feminist criticism did not become recognised as representative of intellectual endeavour in the academy until second-wave feminism’ (1994: 2). The term ‘second-wave’, which implicitly pays tribute to the earlier pioneers of female emancipation, is applied to, among others, Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex, 1949), Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique, 1966), Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch, 1971) and Kate Millett (Sexual Politics, 1970); the last of these is generally seen as most relevant to the development of specifically literary criticism rather than cultural criticism in general.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Nine. Translation and Globalisation

Abstract
The area of translation of children’s literature seems only to have come to the attention of most English-speaking literary critics in the latter half of the twentieth century. This may arise from a combination of two factors:
  • Many of what might be termed the ‘foundation’ texts, such as fairytales and Aesop’s Fables, seem to have become part of our common heritage so that it is easy to forget their ‘foreign’ origins.
  • The majority of the best-known early classics of children’s literature (once it came to be an acknowledged genre) were written in English. Probably the only familiar texts that are not first language English are Johanna Spyri’s Heidi (1881), Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio (1883), Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives (1929) and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (1945); even so it is a safe assumption that young English-speaking readers today are less aware of these than of the works of Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and other English writers.
Darja Mazi-Leskovar, Pat Pinsent

Chapter Ten. Recognising the Culturally Invisible

Abstract
This chapter focuses on how, from the second half of the twentieth century onwards, there has been an increased awareness in both literature and criticism of the many groups of people who, if they have figured at all in previous mainstream culture, have seldom been given a voice. Roderick McGillis, in a collection of articles focusing mostly on post-colonialism, talks of the beginnings of the process of ‘hear[ing] the voice of the other, the people more written about than writing, more spoken about than speaking’, and of the gradual awareness of ‘a desire for recognition on the part of people who have been either invisible or unfairly constructed or both’. McGillis also associates such ‘culturally invisible or diminished’ groups with women and children as being ‘powerless to take part in the conversations of cultural and other forms of political activity’ (2000: xxi). In the current chapter, however, feminism will not be considered, since it features in Chapter Eight; instead, as well as discussion of issues related to multiculturalism or associated with colonialism and its aftermath, attention will be given to an area only recently emerging from critical neglect, that of children’s literature about disability.
Pat Pinsent

Chapter Eleven. The Limits of Childhood: Young Adult and Crossover Fiction

Abstract
U.C. Knoepflmacher and Mitzi Myers (1997: vii) argue that all works of fiction written for young readers by adults are inherently dialogic because they ‘create a colloquy between past and present selves’. This chapter will, however, be confined to a review of critical approaches to fiction for young adults (YAs) which has been perceived by gatekeepers to have challenged the limits of acceptability in terms of subject matter and style (Beckett (ed.) 1999; Trites 2000), and/or which has attracted an adult readership (Falconer 2009). While Rachel Falconer suggests that cross-reading (defined by her as adults reading books aimed at young readers) is a relatively new phenomenon which emerged in the decade leading up to the millennium, recent anthologies of essays that focus on the work of pioneering writers of YA fiction from the mid-twentieth century onwards, most notably that of the controversial American writer Robert Cormier (Gavin (ed.) 2012), lend support to the view that YA fiction has from its inception blurred boundaries in terms of readership, subject matter and style.
Clare Walsh

Chapter Twelve. Other Areas of Children’s Literature Criticism

Abstract
In this final chapter, some consideration will be given to areas which have so far been given little or no attention: the adaptation of written text to other media, new and old, together with the link this process has with the commodification of children’s literature; the interrelated aspects of science and technology, together with the increasing involvement of young people in the process of production of literature; and religion, spirituality and ecocriticism, a grouping which embraces concern, perhaps most deeply felt by young people, about the future of our planet.
Pat Pinsent

Conclusion: Future Trends

Abstract
Just as children’s literature itself is no longer disparaged as ‘kiddie lit’, whose only adult readers were thought to be teachers and parents of young children, contemporary criticism of this literature has come of age and is no longer marginalised as merely an optional addition to ‘proper’ literary criticism. The processes by which this has been achieved have been outlined in the preceding chapters, tracing the development from, on the one hand, a predominantly nostalgic eulogising of the texts enjoyed by adult book-lovers when they were children, and, on the other, the pedagogical emphasis of educationalists. Much of the early academic focus was either historical or author-based. By contrast, at this stage of the twenty-first century, it is apparent that all the areas explored by current literary theory are very germane to recent children’s literature, perhaps particularly those relating to gender and to the nexus of translation, globalisation and the position of minority cultures. Some critics, such as Nodelman, have accused current critical theorists who write about children’s literature of losing sight of ‘the child’ — an entity which was itself called into question by theoretical critics such as Jacqueline Rose and Karín Lesnik-Oberstein. Certain names have stood out in the process of children’s literature criticism’s growth towards maturity — for instance Peter Hunt, Jack Zipes, John Stephens, Kimberley Reynolds, Maria Nikolajeva, and, because of the considerable influence of his relatively slim output in the field, Peter Hollindale.
Pat Pinsent
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