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Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood
Since the 1980s, a peculiar paradox has evolved in American film. Hollywood’s children have grown up, and the adults are looking and behaving more and more like children. In popular films such as Harry Potter, Toy Story, Pocahantas, Home Alone, and Jumanji, it is the children who are clever, savvy, and self-sufficient while the adults are often portrayed as bumbling and ineffective.
Is this transformation of children into "little adults" an invention of Hollywood or a product of changing cultural definitions more broadly? In Coining for Capital, Jyostna Kapur explores the evolution of the concept of childhood from its portrayal in the eighteenth century as a pure, innocent, and idyllic state—the opposite of adulthood—to its expression today as a mere variation of adulthood, complete with characteristics of sophistication, temptation, and corruption. Kapur argues that this change in definition is not a media effect, but rather a structural feature of a deeply consumer-driven society.
Providing a new and timely perspective on the current widespread alarm over the loss of childhood, Coining for Capital concludes that our present moment is in fact one of hope and despair. As children are fortunately shedding false definitions of proscribed innocence both in film and in life, they must now also learn to navigate a deeply inequitable, antagonistic, and consumer-driven society of which they are both a part and a target.
Gender, Trauma, and Uncanny Films in the Weimar Republic
In The Colored Car, Jean Alicia Elster, author of the award-winning Who's Jim Hines?, follows another member of the Ford family coming of age in Depression-era Detroit. In the hot summer of 1937, twelve-year-old Patsy takes care of her three younger sisters and helps her mother put up fresh fruits and vegetables in the family's summer kitchen, adjacent to the wood yard that her father, Douglas Ford, owns. Times are tough, and Patsy's mother, May Ford, helps neighborhood families by sharing the food that she preserves. But May's decision to take a break from canning to take her daughters for a visit to their grandmother's home in Clarksville, Tennessee, sets in motion a series of events that prove to be life-changing for Patsy. After boarding the first-class train car at Michigan Central Station in Detroit and riding comfortably to Cincinnati, Patsy is shocked when her family is led from their seats to change cars. In the dirty, cramped "colored car," Patsy finds that the life she has known in Detroit is very different from life down south, and she can hardly get the experience out of her mind when she returns home-like the soot stain on her finely made dress or the smear on the quilt squares her grandmother taught her to sew. As summer wears on, Patsy must find a way to understand her experience in the colored car and also deal with the more subtle injustices that her family faces in Detroit. By the end of the story, Patsy will never see things the same way that she did before. Elster's engaging narrative illustrates the personal impact of segregation and discrimination and reveals powerful glimpses of everyday life in 1930's Detroit. For young readers interested in American history, The Colored Car is engrossing and informative reading.
Inside an Experimental Youth Court
Despite being labeled as adults, the approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are now prosecuted as adults each year in criminal court are still adolescents, and the contradiction of their legal labeling creates numerous problems and challenges. In Courting Kids Carla Barrett takes us behind the scenes of a unique judicial experiment called the Manhattan Youth Part, a specialized criminal court set aside for youth prosecuted as adults in New York City. Focusing on the lives of those coming through and working in the courtroom, Barrett’s ethnography is a study of a microcosm that reflects the costs, challenges, and consequences the “tough on crime” age has had, especially for male youth of color. She demonstrates how the court, through creative use of judicial discretion and the cultivation of an innovative courtroom culture, developed a set of strategies for handling “adult-juvenile ” cases that embraced, rather than denied, defendants’ adolescence.
A Biography of Eudora Welty
Mississippi author Eudora Welty, the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series, mentored many of today's greatest fiction writers and is a fascinating woman, having lived the majority of the twentieth century (1909-2001). Her life reflects a century of change and is closely entwined with many events that mark our recent history. This biography follows this twentieth-century path while telling Welty's story, beginning with her parents and their important influence on her reading and writing life. The chapters that follow focus on her education and her most important teachers; her life during the Depression and how her career, just getting started, is interrupted by World War II; and how she shows independence and courage through her writing during the turbulent civil rights period of the 1950s and 1960s.After years of care giving and the deaths of all her immediate family members, Welty persevered and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter. Her popularity soared in the 1980s after she delivered the three William E. Massey Lectures to standing-room-only crowds at Harvard, and the lectures were later published as One Writer's Beginnings and became a New York Times bestseller. This biography intends to introduce readers to one of the most significant women writers of the past century, a prolific author who transcends her Mississippi roots and has written short stories, novels, and non-fiction that will endure for all time.
Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms’ editing (or “prostheticizing”) of their tales over seven editions significantly influenced portrayals of disability and related manifestations of physical difference, both in many individual tales and in the collection overall. Schmiesing begins by exploring instabilities in the Grimms’ conception of the fairy tale as a healthy and robust genre that has nevertheless been damaged and needs to be restored to its organic state. In chapter 2, she extends this argument by examining tales such as “The Three Army Surgeons” and “Brother Lustig” that problematize, against the backdrop of war, characters’ efforts to restore wholeness to the impaired or diseased body. She goes on in chapter 3 to study the gendering of disability in the Grimms’ tales with particular emphasis on the Grimms’ editing of “The Maiden Without Hands” and “The Frog King or Iron Henry.” In chapter 4, Schmiesing considers contradictions in portrayals of characters such as Hans My Hedgehog and the Donkey as both cripple and “supercripple”—a figure who miraculously “overcomes” his disability and triumphs despite social stigma. Schmiesing examines in chapter 5 tales in which no magical erasure of disability occurs, but in which protagonists are depicted figuratively “overcoming” disability by means of other personal abilities or traits. The Grimms described the fairy tale using metaphors of able-bodiedness and wholeness and espoused a Romantic view of their editorial process as organic restoration. Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales shows, however, the extent to which the Grimms’ personal experience of disability and illness impacted the tales and reveals the many disability-related amendments that exist within them. Readers interested in fairy-tales studies and disability studies will appreciate this careful reading of the Grimms’ tales.
Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature
Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature by Roberta Seelinger Trites is the winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's Book Award. The award is given annually in order to promote and recognize outstanding contributions to children's literature, history, scholarship, and criticisim; it is one of the highest academic honors that can accrue to an author of children's literary criticism. "What makes Trites' book so significant is the grandness of its theme. She not only expounds upon the role of power in young adult literature, but she also points out that some of this literature has the potential to empower its adolescent readers. o --Mark I. West, president of the Children's Literature Association "Informed by theorists ranging from Lacan to Eagleton to Jameson to Foucault to Barthes, Disturbing the Universe is a cogent and thought-provoking work that breaks new ground in young adult literature and postmodern studies. o --Sherrie A. Inness, associate professor of English, Miami University "For many working within the field of children's literature, this book will come as a welcome addition to an expanding corpus."--The Yearbook of English Studies TheYoung Adult novel is ordinarily characterized as a coming-of-age story, in which the narrative revolves around the individual growth and maturation of a character, but Roberta Trites expands this notion by chronicling the dynamics of power and repression that weave their way through YA books. Characters in these novels must learn to negotiate the levels of power that exist in the myriad social institutions within which they function, including family, church, government, and school. Trites argues that the development of the genre over the past thirty years is an outgrowth of postmodernism, since YA novels are, by definition, texts that interrogate the social construction of individuals. Drawing on such nineteenth-century precursors as Little Women and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Disturbing the Universe demonstrates how important it is to employ poststructuralist methodologies in analyzing adolescent literature, both in critical studies and in the classroom. Among the twentieth-century authors discussed are Blume, Hamilton, Hinton, Le Guin, L'Engle, and Zindel. Trites' work has applications for a broad range of readers, including scholars of children's literature and theorists of post-modernity as well as librarians and secondary-school teachers. Roberta Trites is associate professor of English and associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences, at Illinois State University, where she teaches children's and adolescent literature. She is author of Waking Sleeping Beauty: Feminist Voices in Children's Novels (Iowa), which won an ALA Choice Award.
Deborah C. De Rosa examines the multifaceted nature of domestic abolitionism, a discourse that nineteenth-century women created to voice their political sentiments when cultural imperatives demanded their silence. For nineteenth-century women struggling to find an abolitionist voice while maintaining the codes of gender and respectability, writing children’s literature was an acceptable strategy to counteract the opposition. By seizing the opportunity to write abolitionist juvenile literature, De Rosa argues, domestic abolitionists were able to enter the public arena while simultaneously maintaining their identities as exemplary mother-educators and preserving their claims to “femininity.” Using close textual analyses of archival materials, De Rosa examines the convergence of discourses about slavery, gender, and children in juvenile literature from 1830 to 1865, filling an important gap in our understanding of women’s literary productions about race and gender, as well as our understanding of nineteenth-century American literature more generally.
Popular Front Ideals and Aethetics in Children's Plays of the Federal Theatre Project
Dreaming America: Popular Front Ideals and Aesthetics in Children’s Plays of the Federal Theatre Project by Leslie Elaine Frost traces how the tumultuous politics of the late 1930s shaped the stories and staging of federally funded plays for children. Indeed, children’s theater was central to the Federal Theatre Project’s vision of building a national theater. Frost argues that representations of the child and childhood in the FTP children’s plays stage the hopes and anxieties of a nation destabilized by both economic collapse and technological advances. A declining economy and the first stagnant birthrate in three centuries yoked the national economy to the individual family. Profound disagreements over appropriate models of education and parenting, as well as over issues of ethnicity and class, constituted fundamental arguments over democratic values and social norms. Frost locates these plays within the immediate context of the production materials in the FTP archives, as well as within the broader culture of the Great Depression, drawing on disparate primary materials—from parenting magazines to strike literature to political journals—and referencing a range of popular events—from the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights to Hollywood movies. As the focus of Depression-era adult anxieties and hopes and as the embodiment of vigor, dynamism, and growth, children carried symbolic value both as the future of America and as the America of the future. Frost examines representative plays’ connections to other media, culture, and politics to situate their singular trajectories in the social history of the Federal Theatre Project and Popular Front culture.
A Children's Classic at 100
Appearing first as a weekly serial in The Christian Herald, Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna was first published in book form in 1913. This popular story of an impoverished orphan girl who travels from America’s western frontier to live with her wealthy maternal Aunt Polly in the fictional east coast town of Beldingsville went through forty-seven printings in seven years and remains in print today in its original version, as well as in various translations and adaptations. The story’s enduring appeal lies in Pollyanna’s sunny personality and in her glad game, her playful attempt to accentuate the positive in every situation. In celebration of its centenary, this collection of thirteen original essays examines a wide variety of the novel’s themes and concerns, as well as adaptations in film, manga, and translation.
In this edited collection on Pollyanna, internationally respected and emerging scholars of children’s literature consider Porter’s work from modern critical perspectives. Contributors focus primarily on the novel itself but also examine Porter’s sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, and the various film versions and translations of the novel. With backgrounds in children’s literature, cultural and film studies, philosophy, and religious studies, these scholars extend critical thinking about Porter’s work beyond the thematic readings that have dominated previous scholarship. In doing so, the authors approach the novel from theoretical perspectives that examine what happens when Pollyanna engages with the world around her—her community and the natural environment—exposing the implicit philosophical, religious, and nationalist ideologies of the era in which Pollyanna was written. The final section is devoted to studies of adaptations of Porter’s protagonist.
Impossible Representation in Modern Fiction
Elusive Childhood examines how discourse touched by the identity politics of youth might be revised for fairness. Susan Honeyman demonstrates this potential by reading representations of children from throughout the Modern episteme in works of such writers as Henry James, Edith Wharton, and James Baldwin. Identity politics have changed the way we classify literature by opening up the canon, but they have also changed the way we approach literature. We’ve learned to recognize that biology is not destiny—sex doesn’t necessarily determine gender or orientation, nor do fictitious absolutes like blood ratios measure ethnocultural identity, and so in an effort to avoid false generalizing about “others” we endorse individual self-representation, all the while recognizing how society constructs us. But when it comes to representing the position we call childhood, there is little opportunity in legitimated discourse for children’s self-representation and inadequate attention to social constructedness. Recognizing political inequity in literary representations of children, Honeyman proposes a method of reading child figuration in relief to impose as little adult prejudice as possible. This might be impossible for adults, yet it is necessary to attempt.