The essays for this issue of The Lion and Unicorn revisit earlier texts and ways of reading for new sight lines into the future.
Our issue begins with the text of Adrienne Kertzer’s presentation to a packed room of scholars and teachers at the forty-second annual conference of the Children’s Literature Association in June 2015, hosted by Longwood University in Richmond, Virginia. Capshaw’s invited talk, “Cinderella’s Stepsisters, Traumatic Memory, and Young People’s Writing,” served as the conference’s annual Francelia Butler Lecture—a keynote lecture created to honor the foundational contributions Butler made to the academic study of children’s literature. Kertzer’s talk offers an overview of trauma studies from within and outside of children’s literature, reminding us that, as a field, trauma studies continues to change and develop in its terms and disciplinary perspectives. In reviewing fundamental questions about trauma studies—“What do we mean when we talk about trauma? . . . [W]hen we refer to trauma, do we understand it as a synonym for fear or suffering, or does it imply something worse? . . . [I]f trauma is the latter, what does this reveal about our perception of the world? . . . Why do children need to know about trauma and which children are we talking about?”—Kertzer encourages us to revisit our memories of key theorists and to view known and new literary texts with refreshed critical lens.
Alethia Shih takes a fresh look at an old favorite in “A City and World in Miniature: The Scale of Perspective in E. B. White’s Stuart Little.” Shih argues that White’s second novel for children is a reflection of the growth of writer’s political and social thinking, more particularly his belief in a global view of the human community. She explores the sharp contrast between Stuart Little’s physical diminutiveness and his large vision, his broadmindedness, and his expansive view of the world. He is a “unique representation of the local and the global, perfectly scaled to lead a community-driven vision of cosmopolitanism.” Shih places White’s novel in its historical context, [End Page v] noting that Stuart Little appeared in 1945, about the same time that White began to feel disillusionment over the concept of the United Nations, and its failure, in his view, to achieve the ideals of a worldwide community. She concludes that “White’s writing for children is significantly representative of (rather than separate from) the author’s larger political and cultural vision,” particularly of his dream for a worldwide democracy, a global community that recognizes the mutual interests of all human beings, and a world where size is immaterial and individual differences are embraced.
In “Something Else Besides a Daughter?: Maternal Melodrama Meets Postfeminist Girlhood in Tangled and Brave,” Katie Kapurch goes beyond the “empowerment” discourse of feminist responses to Disney. She shows that Disney’s recent films adopt melodramatic tactics from 1940s “weepies” to yield a focus on contentious yet intimate mother-daughter relationships. This focus produces a postfeminist plurality of perspectives that dramatize the complex ideological and practical demands of contemporary feminine ideologies—and the focal point, the potent vehicle, is hair. In these recent Disney films, Kapurch argues, hair “becomes a physical avenue for mother-daughter intimacy, as well as a space to work out extreme and contradictory feelings,” which are representative of postfeminist experience. Disney’s most recent “princess” films, in short, offer more nuanced notions of femininity than previous critical conversations have suggested.
In their essay “‘Winter Feeds It’: Cold and the Construction of Good and Evil in Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising,” Heidi Hansson and Cathrine Norbert apply digital humanities methodologies to the problem of binary oppositions in Susan Cooper’s classic Dark Is Rising (1973) and their resulting ethical implications. Hannson and Norbert’s rich analysis maps the semantic fields of “cold” and allied terms, interpreting them by exploring the linguistic and cultural histories. Hansson and Norbert show that Cooper’s approach to the binaries of warmth and cold—and good and evil—is more complicated than she has been given credit for. “On the metaphorical level,” they conclude...