- Young Irelands: Studies in Children’s Literature ed. by Mary Shine Thompson
The fourth book in the Studies in Children’s Literature series looks exclusively at Irish children’s literature. Covering a range of texts from a time period that stretches from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to more modern texts, the essays examine how various Irish texts for children from the eighteenth to twentieth century work either within or outside concepts of Irish nationalism and British imperial identity, and also how Irish children’s books have been received in other countries. Thus, following Shine Thompson’s long introduction, which provides a potted history of Irish nationalism’s resistance to British imperialism and its influence on texts for children, the essays are divided into three groups based on their focus. The first group covers texts that can broadly be seen to support and/or inculcate the societal and behavioral norms of empire and nation, and thus, more generally, how children’s literature and other texts aimed at a young audience can be utilized as part of efforts to promote social stability (in this case, British imperialism). The essays in the second group consider texts that offer resistance to notions of nationalism and imperialism or that choose not to engage with such ideologies at all. The third group of essays focuses on the reception of Irish texts by non-Irish audiences, either in terms of the figuring of Irishness itself, or with regard to aspects of translation.
In the opening group of essays, Sharon Murphy writes on Maria Edgeworth’s belief in appropriate education for future imperialists and how this belief operates in her work, and Joy Alexander considers the importance of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia. Both of these essays see imperialist ideas being transmitted through the process of education. In contrast, Marnie Hay discusses the counter-imperialist propaganda of “Na Fianna,” whilst Michael Flanagan discusses the periodical, Our Boys, and its use of the past to offer a sense of nationhood in the present. Finally Ciara Ní Bhroin examines retellings of the Táin and how they can also be seen to appropriate certain traditional notions of Irishness for a particular social and political purpose.
In the second group of essays, Anne Marie Herron looks at the way Irishness is presented through iconography in the children’s [End Page 94] fiction of Kate Thompson, and Anne Markey examines how elements of both Irish and European folk and fairy tales inform Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales for children in ways that both bolster and undermine nationalist and imperial discourse. Jane O’Hanlon considers the problematic use of tropes and themes in the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis and how they can be seen to subvert the “Britishness” of the books, and Valerie Coghlan examines how three illustrators have visualized James Joyce’s “The Cat and the Devil” differently, arguing for the text’s lack of fixed interpretation and nationalist purpose.
The final three essays consider how Irish texts have been considered from outside Ireland. Coralline Dupuy’s consideration of a French translation of Morgan Llywelyn’s Cold Places, focusing on how translation affects reader’s sense of place and access to themes, pairs well with Emer O’Sullivan’s essay on the problems Irish children’s literature poses for German translators, especially in terms of how vernacular speech is dealt with. Aedin Clements offers a fascinating account of the importance of Padraic Colum in helping to forge a new and respectable Irish-American identity for children. Concluding the collection is Shine Thompson’s journey through the historical reception and impact of Gulliver’s Travels, itself a well-considered text in translation studies.
Despite a footnote style that is rather difficult to follow (combining the notes themselves and bibliographic information), the essays in this collection offer some very interesting insights into Irish children’s literature and, just as importantly, suggest a number of possible directions for further studies in Irish children’s literature and its production and dissemination. In that respect, the essays also contribute to wider...