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Literature and the Child

Romantic Continuations, Postmodern Contestations

James Holt Mcgavran

Publication Year: 1999

The Romantic myth of childhood as a transhistorical holy time of innocence and spirituality, uncorrupted by the adult world, has been subjected in recent years to increasingly serious interrogation. Was there ever really a time when mythic ideals were simple, pure, and uncomplicated? The contributors to this book contend—although in widely differing ways and not always approvingly—that our culture is indeed still pervaded, in this postmodern moment of the very late twentieth century, by the Romantic conception of childhood which first emerged two hundred years ago.

In the wake of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, western Europe experienced another fin de siècle characterized by overwhelming material and institutional change and instability. By historicizing the specific political, social, and economic conflicts at work within the notion of Romantic childhood, the essayists in Literature and the Child show us how little these forces have changed over time and how enriching and empowering they can still be for children and their parents.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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Romantic Continuations, Postmodern Contestations, or, “It’s a Magical World, Hobbes, Ol’ Buddy”

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pp. 1-20

n imaginative, withdrawn boy roams wild in a rugged natural setting that becomes a site of instruction in human mortality and morality. Learning as he goes, he revels in theworld’s beauty...


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Romanticism and the End of Childhood

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pp. 23-43

Adolescents regularly bring weapons to school, and the daily violence occasionally erupts into knife fights; a thirteen year old beats another student to death at a prestigious academy. Less affluent urban...

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Reading Children and Homeopathic Romanticism: Paradigm Lost, Revisionary Gleam, or “Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose”?

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pp. 44-84

This two-part essay is about reading children— the historical and contemporary narratives we’ve constructed about them—and about reading children reading in texts.1 It’s a story about competing...


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Taking Games Seriously: Romantic Irony in Modern Fantasy for Children of All Ages

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pp. 87-104

The title of this essay connects notions that, at first sight, seem hardly compatible. On reflection, we may see that Romantic ideas about the imagination, and about children, have endured and are....

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“Infant Sight”: Romanticism, Childhood, and Postmodern Poetry

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pp. 105-129

The idea of the child and the ideal of the child have, since their simultaneous invention, been inseparable—in Schiller’s words, the child is “a lively representation of the ideal,” a representation...

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Wordsworth, Lost Boys, and Romantic Hom(e)ophobia

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pp. 130-152

This essay originates in my concern with the plight of homeless children in America today as it intersects with my work as a critic working in British Romanticism and gender studies. After noting what some psychologists, social workers...


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Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of Kate Greenaway

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pp. 155-187

Imagine the actors and their actions. A framed illustration in a picture book depicts a country garden, a meadow, a picturesque farmhouse peopled with young children who are playing ritually in a Romantic rural landscape. The children...

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The Marketing of Romantic Childhood: Milne, Disney, and a Very Popular Stuffed Bear

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pp. 188-208

From philosophy to business management, the foibles of literary criticism to the fundamentals of Latin, and shampoo to teacups, Winnie-the- Pooh is big business.As much as this well-known bear may seem like a cultural monolith, he and...


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The Art of Maternal Nurture in Mary Austin’s The Basket Woman

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pp. 211-232

As the American literary canon has undergone reassessment in recent years, Mary Austin (1868 – 1934) has emerged from the shadows of cultural memory. The renewal of interest in Austin, who was born in Illinois and taught in southern California...

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Romanticism and Archetypes in Ruth Nichols’s Song of the Pearl Teya Rosenberg

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pp. 233-256

Peter Hollindale suggests that “since 1970 a highly intelligent and demanding literature has emerged which speaks with particular directness to the young adult mind” (86). He calls this literature...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 257-258


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p. 259

E-ISBN-13: 9781587292910
E-ISBN-10: 1587292912
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877456902
Print-ISBN-10: 0877456909

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 1999

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 50320981
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Literature and the Child

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Subject Headings

  • Johnson, Crockett, -- 1906-1975.
  • Children -- Books and reading -- English-speaking countries.
  • Children's literature, English -- History and criticism.
  • Postmodernism (Literature).
  • Romanticism.
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