We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Time of Beauty, Time of Fear

The Romantic Legacy in the Literature of Childhood

James Holt McGavran, Jr.

Publication Year: 2012


It is now two and a half centuries since Jean-Jacques Rousseau first wrote so evocatively of natural man in Social Contract and of experiential education in Emile. His emphasis on the early years as a crucial part of life drove the Romantic reconceptualization of childhood—the idea that children have a special knowledge of nature, politics, and spirituality to teach their elders as well as the other way around. William Wordsworth’s assertion in the “Intimations Ode” that children’s souls come “trailing clouds of glory” from God has continued to haunt Western literature and culture in spite of attacks from writers and critics from then until now, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Robert Thomas Malthus, T. S. Eliot, Judy Blume, Jerome McGann, and Jacqueline Rose.
Displaying careful scholarship, sophisticated use of contemporary literary theory, and close readings of texts while recovering and analyzing materials from more than two centuries of British and other Anglophone cultural history, this collection of new essays traces the evolution of the Romantic child. The contributors play off one another, both within the three traditional historical periods—Romantic, Victorian, and modern/postmodern—and across intellectual and disciplinary categories.
Time of Beauty, Time of Fear offers a stunning array of essays. In some, the authors focus on canonical texts by such writers as Wordsworth, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Smith, and Mrs. Molesworth. Other authors consider the Victorian concerns with missionary literature for children and with the boyish pastime of collecting bird’s nests, folk voices of the 1960s, homeschooling, the Teletubbies television program, and Alan Moore’s Promethea series of graphic novels. Measured in terms of both range and quality, this volume is destined to become essential reading for scholars from numerous disciplines.
Jennifer Smith Daniel
Elizabeth A. Dolan
Richard Flynn
Elizabeth Gargano
Mary Ellis Gibson
Dorothy H. McGavran
Roderick McGillis
Claudia Mills
Jochen Petzold
Malini Roy
Andrew J. Smyth
Jan Susina


Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.0 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (33.1 KB)
pp. ix

I thank my colleague Mark West at the University of North Carolina– Charlotte for urging me to assemble this, my third anthology of essays on the connections between Romanticism and children’s literature. The first two books are...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (78.2 KB)
pp. xi-xxv

As you watch Sam Mendes’s 2009 sleeper hit film Away We Go, the Romantic poets, children’s literature, and childhood studies are not likely to be the first source connections that you make. Burt and Verona (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph), a thirty-something couple with a baby on the way,...

read more

Missing But Presumed Alive: Lost Children of Lost Parents in Two Major Romantic Poems, “Michael” and “Christabel”

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.0 KB)
pp. 1-19

William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” the Ur-text behind so much “classical” children’s literature—and perhaps too much children’s literature criticism— casts long, dark shadows in which stalk the monsters that always devour childhood innocence, simplicity, and spirituality. True, Wordsworth...

read more

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Childish Resentment: The Angry Girl, the Wrongs and the Rights of Woman

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.1 KB)
pp. 20-39

Literary scholars of Romantic childhood are likely to be more familiar with the second of the two passages above, from William Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven.” In the poem, an adult I-narrator struggles fruitlessly to convince a “little Maid” of the stark reality that if two of her originally...

read more

That This Here Box Be in the Natur of a Trap: Maria Edgeworth’s Pedagogical Gardens, Ireland, and the Education of the Poor

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.6 KB)
pp. 40-55

The breakfast conversation of young Rosamond and her two brothers, Orlando and Godfrey, in this typically Edgeworthian educational setting— where the whole house is a site of learning through experience and inquiry (Narain 58)—sounds like either an animal rights debate gone awry, a grisly B-grade sci-fi movie, or, given that the prompt for this discourse is a rabbit...

read more

Financial Investments vs. Moral Principles: Charlotte Smith’s Children’s Books and Slavery

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.6 KB)
pp. 56-71

Charlotte Smith’s remarkably productive twenty-three-year writing career coincided with the most intense decades of British Parliamentary debate about the slave trade.1 Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets (1784) appeared the year after a Quaker group presented the first abolitionist petition to British Parliament (1783); her volume Beachy Head and Other Poems and her sixth children’s...

read more

The Innocent Child in the House of History: Storytelling and the Sensibility of Loss in Molesworth’s The Tapestry Room

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.6 KB)
pp. 72-88

Mary Louisa Molesworth’s two best-known children’s novels, The Cuckoo Clock and The Tapestry Room, appeared in print within two years of each other and bear striking similarities: both depict innocent children who come to inhabit vast and ancient houses that seem burdened by the weight of their own history, and both depict children who suffer from a paralyzing ennui...

read more

Oversleeping Oneself: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wake-Up Call in Wives and Daughters

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.5 KB)
pp. 89-104

Wives and Daughters begins with a little girl waking up to the “old rigmarole of childhood,” a time when “unseen power[s]” rule the circumscribed world she lives in. It is a bewildering world full of danger for the daughters who wake up in it. Many do not wake up and are doomed to passivity, hypochondria, listlessness, ignorance, and tedium. In the terms of...

read more

The Perils of Reading: Children’s Missionary Magazines and the Making of Victorian Imperialist Subjectivity

pdf iconDownload PDF (230.1 KB)
pp. 105-127

In December 1849 the Ragged School Union Magazine reprinted a poem from the Ladies Needlework Penny Magazine written by one Mrs. E. S. Craven Green. Mrs. Green’s poem, “The Claims of the Needy,” will have a familiar ring in the context of middle-class “condition of England” poems of the decade. Mrs. Green exhorted Christian mothers to acts of charity in language that...

read more

The End Was Not Ignoble? Bird-Nesting between Cruelty, Manliness, and Science Education in British Children’s Periodicals, 1850–1900

pdf iconDownload PDF (101.0 KB)
pp. 128-150

At first sight, the topic of “bird-nesting”—a term that can refer to the search for birds’ nests, the removal of eggs or young birds from a nest, or the taking of a whole nest with or without eggs or birds—as presented in children’s literature may seem marginal, even obscure. Yet references to it abound in children’s magazines in the second half of the nineteenth...

read more

My Folk Revival: Childhood, Politics, and Popular Music

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.6 KB)
pp. 151-168

In the summer of 2010, my wife, Becky Kennerly, and I drove to Hollins University, near Roanoke, Virginia, where I was delivering a lecture about Randall Jarrell’s children’s story The Bat-Poet (1964) to students and faculty in the Hollins children’s literature program. As a senior professor specializing...

read more

Rousseau Redux: Romantic Re-Visions of Nature and Freedom in Recent Children’s Literature about Homeschooling

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.3 KB)
pp. 169-183

“Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man” (37). With this famous opening line of Émile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau delivered what is arguably the most famous statement of the creed of childhood innocence, that children are naturally good and are corrupted only through improper education at the...

read more

Teletubbies and the Conflict of the Romantic Concept of Childhood and the Realities of Postmodern Parenting

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.0 KB)
pp. 184-199

Teletubbies is the popular but controversial television program, developed by the BBC specifically for very young children, which ran from 1997 to 2001, first in England. The program was subsequently introduced a year later on PBS in the United States. This children’s television program both reintroduced and questioned some of the basic Romantic notions of childhood...

read more

The Sustaining Paradox: Romanticism and Alan Moore’s Promethea Novels

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.1 KB)
pp. 200

In 1957, Frank Kermode published Romantic Image and put paid to the half century of resistance to the lure of Romanticism expressed by writers as diverse as T. S. Eliot, F. L. Lucas, F. R. Leavis, and T. E. Hulme. Since then, the continuing influence of Romanticism right up to our own day is pretty much a given. In 1985, Jerome McGann published The Romantic Ideology,...

Notes on Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (39.3 KB)
pp. 217-219


pdf iconDownload PDF (371.3 KB)
pp. 221-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781609381066
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381004

Publication Year: 2012