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Unsettling Narratives

Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature

Clare Bradford

Publication Year: 2007

Children’s books seek to assist children to understand themselves and their world. Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature demonstrates how settler-society texts position child readers as citizens of postcolonial nations, how they represent the colonial past to modern readers, what they propose about race relations, and how they conceptualize systems of power and government.

Clare Bradford focuses on texts produced since 1980 in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand and includes picture books, novels, and films by Indigenous and non-Indigenous publishers and producers. From extensive readings, the author focuses on key works to produce a thorough analysis rather than a survey. Unsettling Narratives opens up an area of scholarship and discussion—the use of postcolonial theories—relatively new to the field of children’s literature and demonstrates that many texts recycle the colonial discourses naturalized within mainstream cultures.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

I have been greatly assisted in the writing of this book by many people who have provided suggestions, advice, and information, especially Rod McGillis, Debra Dudek, Emma LaRocque, Ron Jobe, Don Long, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Nicholas Ostler (who helped me with information on North American languages), Margaret Aitken, Elizabeth...

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pp. 1-16

When I travel from Australia to America, I frequently find myself, marooned between flights, perusing the shelves of airport bookshops. As all travellers know, such outlets cater to buyers seeking last-minute gifts, or distraction from the tedium of waiting, or lightweight reading for long flights. In airport book displays during 2002, I noticed an unusual...

Part I: “When Languages Collide”: Resistance and Representation

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1. Language, Resistance, and Subjectivity

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pp. 19-43

The first encounters between colonists and Indigenous peoples generally involved the exchange of words—the names of people, places, objects—and are emblematic of the central importance of language in colonization. Relations of colonial power were constructed through language. Place names were used to claim ownership, to define, and to make...

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2. Indigenous Texts and Publishers

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pp. 45-69

In Jingle Dancer (2000), by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu, the protagonist Jenna dreams of jingle-dancing like her Grandma Wolfe, but it is too late to mail-order jingles for the coming powwow. She visits her Great-aunt Sis, her friend Mrs. Scott, her cousin Elizabeth, and finally Grandma Wolfe, each of whom provides her...

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3. White Imaginings

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pp. 71-96

The fact that most representations of Indigenous peoples and cultures in settler societies have been and continue to be produced by non-Indigenous writers and artists is readily explained by the fact that in these nations it is white, Eurocentric cultures whose practices, perspectives, and narrative traditions dominate literary production and representational...

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4. Telling the Past

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pp. 97-119

The prevalence of historical novels in settler culture children’s literature underlines the ideological work that these texts carry out as they seek to explain and interpret national histories—histories that involve invasion, conquest, violence, and assimilation. More than any other category of settler culture texts, historical fiction is caught between opposing and...

Part II: Place and Postcolonial Significations

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5. Space, Time, Nation

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pp. 123-146

During the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, a historicist world view dominated critical social theory. Michel Foucault describes as follows the nineteenth-century preoccupation with time and history: “Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the contrary was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic.” This...

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6. Borders, Journeys, and Liminality

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pp. 147-168

References to borders, boundaries, and frontiers permeate colonial discourses, providing potent metaphors for distinctions between races and for the imperial project itself. Such metaphors were especially significant to settler colonies, where, as Paul Carter notes, the frontier was “a persistent figure of speech” imagined as “a line, a line continually pushed forward...

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7. Politics and Place

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pp. 169-198

In discussing The Sign of the Beaver and Take the Long Path in chapter 5, I touched on how these texts skirt, respectively, around questions concerning the colonial appropriation of land in the United States and negotiations over land ownership in contemporary New Zealand. In this chapter, I focus on the politics of spatiality, which are shaped by cultural...

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8. Allegories of Place and Race

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pp. 199-223

Within postcolonial literary studies, allegory has generally been regarded as a key form of counter-discourse, a strategy by which colonialist versions of history and dominant modes of representation are contested and resisted. Stephen Slemon was one of the first theorists to recognize the power of postcolonial allegory, observing that, within postcolonial...

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pp. 225-227

I conclude this comparative study of settler society texts with a sense of the subtle, complicated relations of difference and likeness that I have tried to sketch. If I seek to compare cultures and texts, I am reminded of tensions and inconsistencies within particular national literatures; if I write about one context and its textual production for children, I am...


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pp. 229-251

Bibliography and References

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pp. 253-269


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pp. 271-279

E-ISBN-13: 9781554580729
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889205079
Print-ISBN-10: 0889205078

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007