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Literature > Children's Literature

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Coining for Capital Cover

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Coining for Capital

Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood

Jyotsna Kapur

"This book is a welcome addition to the literature on children and the media, and a most stimulating application of social theory to questions of the child in contemporary film and consumer culture."—Ellen Seiter, author of The Internet Playground: Children's Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education

Since the 1980s, a peculiar paradox has evolved in American film. Hollywood’s children have grown up, and the adults are looking and behaving more and more like children. In popular films such as Harry Potter, Toy Story, Pocahantas, Home Alone, and Jumanji, it is the children who are clever, savvy, and self-sufficient while the adults are often portrayed as bumbling and ineffective.

Is this transformation of children into "little adults" an invention of Hollywood or a product of changing cultural definitions more broadly? In Coining for Capital, Jyostna Kapur explores the evolution of the concept of childhood from its portrayal in the eighteenth century as a pure, innocent, and idyllic state—the opposite of adulthood—to its expression today as a mere variation of adulthood, complete with characteristics of sophistication, temptation, and corruption. Kapur argues that this change in definition is not a media effect, but rather a structural feature of a deeply consumer-driven society.

Providing a new and timely perspective on the current widespread alarm over the loss of childhood, Coining for Capital concludes that our present moment is in fact one of hope and despair. As children are fortunately shedding false definitions of proscribed innocence both in film and in life, they must now also learn to navigate a deeply inequitable, antagonistic, and consumer-driven society of which they are both a part and a target.

The Colored Car Cover

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The Colored Car

Gender, Trauma, and Uncanny Films in the Weimar Republic

Jean Alicia Elster

In The Colored Car, Jean Alicia Elster, author of the award-winning Who's Jim Hines?, follows another member of the Ford family coming of age in Depression-era Detroit. In the hot summer of 1937, twelve-year-old Patsy takes care of her three younger sisters and helps her mother put up fresh fruits and vegetables in the family's summer kitchen, adjacent to the wood yard that her father, Douglas Ford, owns. Times are tough, and Patsy's mother, May Ford, helps neighborhood families by sharing the food that she preserves. But May's decision to take a break from canning to take her daughters for a visit to their grandmother's home in Clarksville, Tennessee, sets in motion a series of events that prove to be life-changing for Patsy. After boarding the first-class train car at Michigan Central Station in Detroit and riding comfortably to Cincinnati, Patsy is shocked when her family is led from their seats to change cars. In the dirty, cramped "colored car," Patsy finds that the life she has known in Detroit is very different from life down south, and she can hardly get the experience out of her mind when she returns home-like the soot stain on her finely made dress or the smear on the quilt squares her grandmother taught her to sew. As summer wears on, Patsy must find a way to understand her experience in the colored car and also deal with the more subtle injustices that her family faces in Detroit. By the end of the story, Patsy will never see things the same way that she did before. Elster's engaging narrative illustrates the personal impact of segregation and discrimination and reveals powerful glimpses of everyday life in 1930's Detroit. For young readers interested in American history, The Colored Car is engrossing and informative reading.

Courting Kids Cover

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Courting Kids

Inside an Experimental Youth Court

Despite being labeled as adults, the approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are now prosecuted as adults each year in criminal court are still adolescents, and the contradiction of their legal labeling creates numerous problems and challenges. In Courting Kids Carla Barrett takes us behind the scenes of a unique judicial experiment called the Manhattan Youth Part, a specialized criminal court set aside for youth prosecuted as adults in New York City. Focusing on the lives of those coming through and working in the courtroom, Barrett’s ethnography is a study of a microcosm that reflects the costs, challenges, and consequences the “tough on crime” age has had, especially for male youth of color. She demonstrates how the court, through creative use of judicial discretion and the cultivation of an innovative courtroom culture, developed a set of strategies for handling “adult-juvenile ” cases that embraced, rather than denied, defendants’ adolescence.

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A Daring Life

A Biography of Eudora Welty

Carolyn J. Brown

Mississippi author Eudora Welty, the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series, mentored many of today's greatest fiction writers and is a fascinating woman, having lived the majority of the twentieth century (1909-2001). Her life reflects a century of change and is closely entwined with many events that mark our recent history. This biography follows this twentieth-century path while telling Welty's story, beginning with her parents and their important influence on her reading and writing life. The chapters that follow focus on her education and her most important teachers; her life during the Depression and how her career, just getting started, is interrupted by World War II; and how she shows independence and courage through her writing during the turbulent civil rights period of the 1950s and 1960s.

After years of care giving and the deaths of all her immediate family members, Welty persevered and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter. Her popularity soared in the 1980s after she delivered the three William E. Massey Lectures to standing-room-only crowds at Harvard, and the lectures were later published as One Writer's Beginnings and became a New York Times bestseller. This biography intends to introduce readers to one of the most significant women writers of the past century, a prolific author who transcends her Mississippi roots and has written short stories, novels, and non-fiction that will endure for all time.

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Disturbing the Universe

Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature

Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature by Roberta Seelinger Trites is the winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's Book Award. The award is given annually in order to promote and recognize outstanding contributions to children's literature, history, scholarship, and criticisim; it is one of the highest academic honors that can accrue to an author of children's literary criticism. "What makes Trites' book so significant is the grandness of its theme. She not only expounds upon the role of power in young adult literature, but she also points out that some of this literature has the potential to empower its adolescent readers. o --Mark I. West, president of the Children's Literature Association "Informed by theorists ranging from Lacan to Eagleton to Jameson to Foucault to Barthes, Disturbing the Universe is a cogent and thought-provoking work that breaks new ground in young adult literature and postmodern studies. o --Sherrie A. Inness, associate professor of English, Miami University "For many working within the field of children's literature, this book will come as a welcome addition to an expanding corpus."--The Yearbook of English Studies TheYoung Adult novel is ordinarily characterized as a coming-of-age story, in which the narrative revolves around the individual growth and maturation of a character, but Roberta Trites expands this notion by chronicling the dynamics of power and repression that weave their way through YA books. Characters in these novels must learn to negotiate the levels of power that exist in the myriad social institutions within which they function, including family, church, government, and school. Trites argues that the development of the genre over the past thirty years is an outgrowth of postmodernism, since YA novels are, by definition, texts that interrogate the social construction of individuals. Drawing on such nineteenth-century precursors as Little Women and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Disturbing the Universe demonstrates how important it is to employ poststructuralist methodologies in analyzing adolescent literature, both in critical studies and in the classroom. Among the twentieth-century authors discussed are Blume, Hamilton, Hinton, Le Guin, L'Engle, and Zindel. Trites' work has applications for a broad range of readers, including scholars of children's literature and theorists of post-modernity as well as librarians and secondary-school teachers. Roberta Trites is associate professor of English and associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences, at Illinois State University, where she teaches children's and adolescent literature. She is author of Waking Sleeping Beauty: Feminist Voices in Children's Novels (Iowa), which won an ALA Choice Award.

Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830-1865 Cover

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Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830-1865

Deborah C. De Rosa examines the multifaceted nature of domestic abolitionism, a discourse that nineteenth-century women created to voice their political sentiments when cultural imperatives demanded their silence. For nineteenth-century women struggling to find an abolitionist voice while maintaining the codes of gender and respectability, writing children’s literature was an acceptable strategy to counteract the opposition. By seizing the opportunity to write abolitionist juvenile literature, De Rosa argues, domestic abolitionists were able to enter the public arena while simultaneously maintaining their identities as exemplary mother-educators and preserving their claims to “femininity.” Using close textual analyses of archival materials, De Rosa examines the convergence of discourses about slavery, gender, and children in juvenile literature from 1830 to 1865, filling an important gap in our understanding of women’s literary productions about race and gender, as well as our understanding of nineteenth-century American literature more generally.

Dreaming America Cover

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Dreaming America

Popular Front Ideals and Aethetics in Children's Plays of the Federal Theatre Project

Dreaming America: Popular Front Ideals and Aesthetics in Children’s Plays of the Federal Theatre Project by Leslie Elaine Frost traces how the tumultuous politics of the late 1930s shaped the stories and staging of federally funded plays for children. Indeed, children’s theater was central to the Federal Theatre Project’s vision of building a national theater. Frost argues that representations of the child and childhood in the FTP children’s plays stage the hopes and anxieties of a nation destabilized by both economic collapse and technological advances. A declining economy and the first stagnant birthrate in three centuries yoked the national economy to the individual family. Profound disagreements over appropriate models of education and parenting, as well as over issues of ethnicity and class, constituted fundamental arguments over democratic values and social norms. Frost locates these plays within the immediate context of the production materials in the FTP archives, as well as within the broader culture of the Great Depression, drawing on disparate primary materials—from parenting magazines to strike literature to political journals—and referencing a range of popular events—from the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights to Hollywood movies. As the focus of Depression-era adult anxieties and hopes and as the embodiment of vigor, dynamism, and growth, children carried symbolic value both as the future of America and as the America of the future. Frost examines representative plays’ connections to other media, culture, and politics to situate their singular trajectories in the social history of the Federal Theatre Project and Popular Front culture.

Fairy Tales Transformed? Cover

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Fairy Tales Transformed?

Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder

Cristina Bacchilega

Fairy-tale adaptations are ubiquitous in modern popular culture, but readers and scholars alike may take for granted the many voices and traditions folded into today's tales. In Fairy Tales Transformed?: Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder, accomplished fairy-tale scholar Cristina Bacchilega traces what she terms a "fairy-tale web" of multivocal influences in modern adaptations, asking how tales have been changed by and for the early twenty-first century. Dealing mainly with literary and cinematic adaptations for adults and young adults, Bacchilega investigates the linked and yet divergent social projects these fairy tales imagine, their participation and competition in multiple genre and media systems, and their relation to a politics of wonder that contests a naturalized hierarchy of Euro-American literary fairy tale over folktale and other wonder genres. Bacchilega begins by assessing changes in contemporary understandings and adaptations of the Euro-American fairy tale since the 1970s, and introduces the fairy-tale web as a network of reading and writing practices with a long history shaped by forces of gender politics, capitalism, and colonialism. In the chapters that follow, Bacchilega considers a range of texts, from high profile films like Disney's Enchanted, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, and Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard to literary adaptations like Nalo Hopkinson's Skin Folk, Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch, and Bill Willingham's popular comics series, Fables. She looks at the fairy-tale web from a number of approaches, including adaptation as "activist response" in Chapter 1, as remediation within convergence culture in Chapter 2, and a space of genre mixing in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 connects adaptation with issues of translation and stereotyping to discuss mainstream North American adaptations of The Arabian Nights as "media text" in post-9/11 globalized culture. Bacchilega's epilogue invites scholars to intensify their attention to multimedia fairy-tale traditions and the relationship of folk and fairy tales with other cultures' wonder genres. Scholars of fairy-tale studies will enjoy Bacchilega's significant new study of contemporary adaptations.

Freud in Oz Cover

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Freud in Oz

At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children’s Literature

Kenneth B. Kidd

Children’s literature has spent decades on the psychiatrist’s couch, submitting to psychoanalysis by scores of scholars and popular writers alike. Freud in Oz turns the tables, suggesting that psychoanalysts owe a significant and largely unacknowledged debt to books ostensibly written for children. In fact, Kenneth B. Kidd argues, children’s literature and psychoanalysis have influenced and interacted with each other since Freud published his first case studies.

In Freud in Oz, Kidd shows how psychoanalysis developed in part through its engagement with children’s literature, which it used to articulate and dramatize its themes and methods, turning first to folklore and fairy tales, then to materials from psychoanalysis of children, and thence to children’s literary texts, especially such classic fantasies as Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He traces how children’s literature, and critical response to it, aided the popularization of psychoanalytic theory. With increasing acceptance of psychoanalysis came two new genres of children’s literature—known today as picture books and young adult novels—that were frequently fashioned as psychological in their forms and functions.

Freud in Oz offers a history of reigning theories in the study of children’s literature and psychoanalysis, providing fresh insights on a diversity of topics, including the view that Maurice Sendak and Bruno Bettelheim can be thought of as rivals, that Sendak’s makeover of monstrosity helped lead to the likes of the Muppets, and that “Poohology” is its own kind of literary criticism—serving up Winnie the Pooh as the poster bear for theorists of widely varying stripes.

From Birdwomen to Skygirls Cover

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From Birdwomen to Skygirls

American Girls' Aviation Stories

Fred Erisman

Close on the heels of the American public’s early enthusiasm over the airplane came aviation stories for the young. From 1910 until the early 1960s they exalted flight and painted the airplane as the most modern and adventuresome of machines. Most of the books were directed at boys; however, a substantial number sought a girls’ audience. Erisman’s account of the several aviation series and other aviation books for girls fills a gap in the history and criticism of American popular culture. It examines the stories of girls who took to the sky, of the sources where authors found their inspiration, and of the evolution of aviation as an enterprise open to all. From the heady days of early aviation through the glory days of commercial air travel, girls’ aviation books trace American women’s participation in the field. They also reflect changes in women’s roles and status in American society as the sex sought greater equality with men. As aviation technology improves, the birdwomen of the pre-World War I era, capable and independent-minded, give way to individualistic 1930s adventurers patterned on Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, and other feminine notables of the air. Their stories lead directly into the coming of commercial air travel. Career stories paint the increasingly glamorous world of the 1940s and 1950s airline stewardess, the unspoken assumptions lying behind that profession, and the inexorable effects of technological and economic change. By recovering these largely forgotten books and the social debates surrounding women’s flying, Erisman makes a substantial contribution to aviation history, women’s history, and the study of juvenile literature. This first comprehensive study of a long-overlooked topic recalls aviation experiences long past and poses provocative questions about Americans’ attitude toward women and how those attitudes were conveyed to the young. Close on the heels of the American public’s early enthusiasm over the airplane came aviation stories for the young. From 1910 until the early 1960s they exalted flight and painted the airplane as the most modern and adventuresome of machines. Most of the books were directed at boys; however, a substantial number sought a girls’ audience. Erisman’s account of the several aviation series and other aviation books for girls fills a gap in the history and criticism of American popular culture. It examines the stories of girls who took to the sky, of the sources where authors found their inspiration, and of the evolution of aviation as an enterprise open to all. From the heady days of early aviation through the glory days of commercial air travel, girls’ aviation books trace American women’s participation in the field. They also reflect changes in women’s roles and status in American society as the sex sought greater equality with men. As aviation technology improves, the birdwomen of the pre-World War I era, capable and independent-minded, give way to individualistic 1930s adventurers patterned on Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, and other feminine notables of the air. Their stories lead directly into the coming of commercial air travel. Career stories paint the increasingly glamorous world of the 1940s and 1950s airline stewardess, the unspoken assumptions lying behind that profession, and the inexorable effects of technological and economic change. By recovering these largely forgotten books and the social debates surrounding women’s flying, Erisman makes a substantial contribution to aviation history, women’s history, and the study of juvenile literature. This first comprehensive study of a long-overlooked topic recalls aviation experiences long past and poses provocative questions about Americans’ attitude toward women and how those attitudes were conveyed to the young.

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