Using Agnes Strickland's noncanonical but once-popular 1826 robinsonnade as a test case, this essay takes issue with earlier critical work arguing early British children's literature functions to construct middle class subjectivites. Rather than embracing a tripartite vision of class, Strickland's text co-opts middle class ideologies of sentimentalism and meritocracy to reform and reinscribe a binary construction of class, a construction which leaves the upper class firmly in control of the reins of power.
Alice's encounter with a Wonderland pigeon derives from a common scenario in nineteenth-century natural history publishing where a predator attacks a nest. The natural history intertext indicates that Carroll's Alice books use animal characters to reflect on Darwin's theory of species origin, on human identity, and on the child's place in nature.
This essay interrogates nostalgia along pathological lines by attending to its medical origins and following its migration into psychoanalysis, empire and children's literature. It demonstrates how nostalgia, in its particularly sensory embodiment, works in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, and Winnie-the-Pooh to cover over aspects of childhood distasteful to adult sensibilities—with only partial success.
This article examines how Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Nesbit's The Railway Children, and social-reform projects of the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army decry mechanization and working-class decline and yet desire middle-class supervision of workers to fit them for participation in the industrial and imperial nation.
Preparatory school stories may be read as gothic fictions, subverting the didactic role of children's literature and critiquing schools' function in normalizing or socializing students. In American prep school literature, schools enforce conformity and view independent thinkers as deviants that must be watched, punished, transformed, or eliminated.
This essay addresses David Almond's Skellig as a story that foregrounds the resources children need to remain resilient in the face of the uncertainties of contemporary risk society. Focussing on knowledge resources, it attends to the socio-cultural and intellectual conditions embedded in the narrative and expressed through its magic realist gestures.
Like her favorite author Jane Austen, Rowling uses a third-person limited omniscient point of view to demonstrate the necessity of perspective and sympathy for moral growth. For Rowling, as for Austen, moral authority depends upon knowing the self in relation to others; this knowledge allows moral agency in the future.
Using the John Newbery Medal as a case study, this essay examines the prizing of children's literature and its cultural discontents, focusing on the rise of "edubrow" culture and on the gradual shift away from traditional rhetorics of distinction and toward more pluralistic understandings of literary and cultural merit.