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  • Editors’ Introduction:Children’s Culture and the First World War
  • Gills Stacy (bio) and Esther MacCallum-Stewart (bio)

As the centenary for the First World War approaches, interest in how this conflict has been—and continues to be—articulated, represented, and interrogated has been growing steadily. Of all the wars in the twentieth century, this has been the one that has retained the strongest emotional pull on the popular consciousness. The figure of the solider-poet still remains a key part of our understanding of the conflict. One of the results of other wars—particularly the Second World War and the Holocaust—has been the widespread acknowledgment that wars are not only experienced by those on the front lines. How noncombatant and combatant (albeit often unacknowledged as such) women and children experienced the First World War has formed some discussion since the 1970s. Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig's Women and Children First: The Fiction of Two World Wars (1978) was one of the first projects to identify the ways in which the wartime experiences of women and children were articulated. More interest, however, has been paid to re-examining the history of women in wartime, from the essays in Margaret Higonnet et alia's seminal collection Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars (1989) to Jane Potter's Boys in Khaki, Girls in Print: Women's Literary Responses to the Great War, 1914–1918 (2005), than to the experiences of children and war. While Holocaust studies have recently foregrounded both the war experiences of children as well as writing the Holocaust for children, the First World War remains little studied by scholars of both war and children's culture.1 The essays in this special issue are concerned with how the war has been retold: how "the story of their war, in its local, particular, parochial, familial forms, can be told and retold" (Winter 40). In the telling and re-telling of the relationship between children and the First World War, it is revealed that the "construction of the narrative . . . is itself the process of remembrance" (40). In this way, these narratives produced during [End Page v] and after the war are just as much artifacts of war as are the trenches or Blackadder Goes Forth. The articles that make up this special issue are equally concerned with what occurred in children's culture during the war as with what has occurred in the century since.

Andrea McKenzie's article examines the responses made by children to the war through their contributions to St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folk, a widely-circulating magazine for children in America. McKenzie argues that children's contributions forced the war, initially a subject suppressed by the editors, onto the magazine's main pages. She points out that, by the time of the entry of the United States into the war in 1917, writing by readers about the war had gained priority in the pages of St. Nicholas. In turn this caused a reversal by St Nicholas, so that by 1917, writing by readers about the war had gradually gained priority. In this case, reader autonomy suggests that the war was of direct concern to young people. Krista Cowman's piece is concerned with a reading of the foreigner in British novels written for children: Bessie Marchant's Molly Angel's Adventures (1915) and D. H. Parry's With Haig on the Somme (1917). Cowman argues that notions of Britishness are modelled in these texts, not only through the image of the British at war, but crucially through its civilians and the foreign "other." This articulation of British nationality is, for Cowman, key to reconstructing how the heroic was understood during the war. Margaret Higonnet's article focuses on French and Belgian children's picture books, drawing connections between the images therein and ways in which children were widely expected to absorb the conflict. Through investigations of several texts, she traces the ways in which war toys, specifically soldier and doll figures are "made" and "unmade" within each story. Each of these articles points to ways in which specific genres conceptualize the war as an ideological event for their child...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6563
Print ISSN
0147-2593
Pages
pp. v-ix
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-26
Open Access
No
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