- From the Editor
As a novelist as well as the director of a graduate program filled with both scholars and writers of children’s literature, I have always been interested in how much, intentionally or unconsciously, a writer’s own internal identity or search for that identity leaks, if you will, into his or her written work. Rather a lot, I have always suspected, and in this issue we have several essays that consider exactly that question.
Volume 42 begins with “Limitations as Possibilities: Uri Orlev’s Holocaust Narratives for Children and Young Adults,” in which Rima Shikhmanter suggests that in the case of Orlev (himself a Holocaust survivor), children’s Holocaust literature, far from softening the horror, instead provides a bearable way to confront the iconic tragedy of the twentieth century by seeing it through a child’s perspective. “The depiction of the delicate oscillation between childhood/adulthood and awareness/nonawareness in Orlev’s narratives, and the means by which it enables personal and ideological coping with the traumatic past,” are crucial to this process.
In “Dark Avunculate: Shame, Animality, and Queer Development in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Star-Child,’” Rasmus R. Simonsen examines Wilde’s fairy tale, “The Star-Child,” read as a gender-inverted retelling of Proserpine, “a complex interweaving of myth and sexuality” in which there is redemption but no “happily ever after.” Here Simonsen explores the theme of shame and the way it disrupts or delays the narrative of childhood development, as well as how animality influences the notion of shame, as the Star-Child is turned into a nonhuman figure, acquiring “the face of a toad” and a “body . . . scaled like an adder.” Shame, it seems, has lasting consequences. The Star-Child’s shame redeems him, and he is transformed back to his former self, but he dies three years into his reign as king and the throne is assumed by a new and cruel ruler.
Sarah Wadsworth explores the overlooked link between Kenneth Grahame’s family history of alcoholism and the development of The Wind in the Willows in the next essay, “‘When the Cup Has Been Drained’: Addiction and Recovery in The Wind in the Willows.” The dissolution of Grahame’s childhood home due to his father’s uncontrollable drinking brought him to his grandmother’s house in the village [End Page vii] where he would later set The Wind in the Willows, but he clearly brought other issues with him: “Repeatedly deploying tropes of intoxication and addiction outside the immediate context of drinking and drunkenness, The Wind in the Willows reflects the perspective of a writer with first-hand knowledge of the way the effects of alcohol are not only immediate, direct, and contained, but also collateral, ramified, and impossible to isolate.” The echoes and figurative uses of alcohol and alcoholic behavior, Wadsworth maintains, are integral to the book’s unifying themes and crucial to an arc of recovery the novel advances through nature, domesticity, spirituality, and creative self-expression.
In “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: Exploring Dr. Seuss’s Racial Imagination,” Philip Nel investigates the things that stay with us when we don’t know it, the internalized racism masquerading as habit that afflicts even the pure of heart. Nel tracks the evolution of African-American cultural imagery in Seuss’s work, with an eye to what lingers in the subconscious. Seuss’s early cartoons, pre-dating his children’s books, are overtly racist but, as Nel points out, nothing unusual for their time. Culture changes, however, as does its practitioner. Seuss’s attitudes had shifted remarkably by the 1950s, and by the time he wrote The Cat in the Hat, he had spoken out against racial stereotyping. And yet . . . in our conscious moments of speech, we may decry stereotyping, while in the more trancelike medium of art, the pen may still bring forth traces of those old images.
At the midpoint, to provide personal context to these explorations of authorial intent, conscious or otherwise, we offer a Varia piece, “Girl in the Attic,” the Chase Lecture in Children’s Literature given by Marilyn Nelson at the University of Minnesota. Here she describes an author...