This chapter’ looks back at Jacqueline Rose’s seminal 1984 work, The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children’ Fiction, with the hindsight of nearly 30 years, recognising how influential it has been, but also at how it has as frequently been ignored or, more simply, rendered innocuous, its radical, destabilising challenges repressed, much like the symptoms of an underlying trauma. Unfortunately, that rallying cry of her subtitle — ‘the impossibility of children’s fiction’ — has often got in the way, being seen by some as a truth to be universally acknowledged or else, by others, as refutable simply by gesturing to the humanist child (e.g. Rustin, 1985; Hollindale, 1991, 1995;2 Watson, 1992; Lesnik-Oberstein, 1994, 1998; Galbraith, 2001; Walsh, 2002; Chapleau, 2004). Though I go along with many of her insights, I will argue that her conclusion, that children’s fiction is impossible, is untenable. Given that we are all creatures of language — that our very development proceeds in a ‘fictional direction’, as Lacan put it — then children’s fiction must be as possible as any other. In fact, to single it out as distinct is, ironically, to hold on to a residual notion of the Romantic child: a being distinct from adults, standing outside society and language, rather than a being that is actively involved in negotiating meaning.
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