Waking Sleeping Beauty
Feminist Voices in Children's Novels
Publication Year: 1997
The Sleeping Beauty in Roberta Seelinger Trites' intriguing text is no silent snoozer passively waiting for Prince Charming to energize her life. Instead she wakes up all by herself and sets out to redefine the meaning of “happily ever after.” Trites investigates the many ways that Sleeping Beauty's newfound voice has joined other strong female voices in feminist children's novels to generate equal potentials for all children.
Waking Sleeping Beauty explores issues of voice in a wide range of children's novels, including books by Virginia Hamilton, Patricia MacLachlan, and Cynthia Voight as well as many multicultural and international books. Far from being a limiting genre that praises females at the expense of males, the feminist children's novel seeks to communicate an inclusive vision of politics, gender, age, race, and class. By revising former stereotypes of children's literature and replacing them with more complete images of females in children's books, Trites encourages those involved with children's literature—teachers, students, writers, publishers, critics, librarian, booksellers, and parents—to be aware of the myriad possibilities of feminist expression.
Roberta Trites focuses on the positive aspects of feminism: on the ways females interact through family and community relationships, on the ways females have revised patriarchal images, and on the ways female writers use fictional constructs to transmit their ideologies to readers. She thus provides a framework that allows everyone who enters a classroom with a children's book in hand to recognize and communicate—with an optimistic, reality-based sense of “happily ever after”—the politics and the potential of that book.
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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No organized social movement has affected children's literature as significantly as feminism has. Since the resurgence of the women's movement in the 1960s, many children's novels published in the English language have reflected the goals of the movement. ...
1. Defining the Feminist Children's Novel
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My love of feminist children's books began in the late 1960s, when I was a child who complained because Bert and Freddie Bobbsey got to have more adventures than Nan and Flossie did. While I was rereading the first book in The Bobbsey Twins (1904) series recently, I discovered where my sense of inequity had come from: ...
2. Subverting Stereotypes: Rejecting Traditional Gender Roles
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In the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, girls in children's books seemed to have more freedom than the real girls who were their actual counterparts in British and North American cultures. For instance, in Early Lessons (1801) by Maria Edgeworth, Roseamonde often acts upon her own instincts, even though they get her in trouble. ...
3. Subjectivity as a Gender Issue: Metaphors and Intertextuality
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One of the most fundamental concepts to an understanding of poststructural feminist theory is that of subjectivity. Poststructural critics use the concept of subjectivity to question the liberal humanist position that the individual's inner self is the ultimate source of meaning (Belsey, Critical Practice 3). ...
4. Transforming Feminine Silence: Pro/claiming Female Voices
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Literary proclamations of female subjectivity are important because too often throughout history, female voices have been silenced. Narratives that depict characters engaging their subjectivity, however, tend to focus on those same characters' articulateness. ...
5. Re/constructing the Female Writer: Subjectivity in the Feminist Künstlerroman
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Margaret Mahy's The Tricksters examines what it means to one girl that she is a writer; so does Patricia Maclachlan's Cassie Binegar. Both of these novels depict a girl who claims the subject position by learning to use her voice, but significantly, each character learns to use her voice not only as a matter of speaking but also as a matter of writing. ...
6. Female Interdependency: Literal and Metaphoric Sisterhood
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The protagonists of Harriet the Spy and The Sound of Chariots explore the nature of their subjectivity through the process of writing; for them, writing is an extension of voice. Voice is an equally important issue in many feminist novels that focus on the importance of human interdependency. ...
7. Refuting Freud: Mother/Daughter Relationships
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In chapter 6, I investigated the implications of community as an arena in which the child or adolescent protagonist could explore her voice within different types of interrelationships. The most complex form of relationship in feminist literature, however, seems to be the mother/daughter relationship, for that is the primary relationship for many girls. ...
8. Metafiction and the Politics of Identity: Narrativity, Subjectivity, and Community
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That so many mothers have stories to tell in feminist children's novels calls our attention to the general tendency of the genre to be meta fictional about storytelling. Metafictional writing, fiction about fiction itself, "selfconsciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality" (Waugh, Metafictions 2). ...
9. Afterword: Feminist Pedagogy and Children's Literature
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Children's literature as a field of study has grown during the 1990s for a number of reasons. One is the burgeoning acceptance of all marginalized literatures within literary criticism as a whole; another is the push from the whole language movement, by whatever name it is called, to integrate children's and adolescent literary texts into elementary and secondary classrooms. ...
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Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 1997