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281 14. Betwixt-and-Between: Barrie, Shakespeare, and Playing at Childhood CAITLIN R. HANSEN Rather in the manner of children who fall out of their prams, Scottish children’s literature has been unclaimed by either the Scottish literature community or by the children’s literature community.1 [The lost boys] are the children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Never Land.2 It is common cultural knowledge that ‘all children, except one, grow up’. It is perhaps less universally known that Peter Pan flew from his nursery as a week-old infant to an island in the middle of Kensington Gardens, only to lose his faith and consequently his ability to fly, and therefore to be declared (by a wise old crow) a ‘Betwixt-and-Between’.3 This unsettled designation follows the iconic character in his various iterations as he and his story evolve, feeding off the energy generated by tensions between home and escape, safety and adventure, imagination and reality, and childhood and adulthood. It is also a title that applies to the generic instability of the narrative,4 and to J. M. Barrie himself as a literary figure. In studies of juvenile literature in general, and certainly any that focus specifically on Scottish children’s literature, there is a tendency to hold Barrie up as one of Scotland’s main voices; the irony of this, though, is that both his manifest Scottishness, and his status as a writer for children, have often been called into question by fellow Scots and authors, scholars, and critics at large. The recurring challenging of the very things for which Barrie is most well-known as a writer highlights those productive tensions that make his work unique and essential to seeing Scottish literature for children as a distinct genre. Like Peter Pan (and his stories), Barrie is concerned with 282 caitlin r. hansen the liminal spaces between childhood and adulthood, and fantasy and reality – pairings which ultimately, this chapter will seek to demonstrate, portray imaginative and political relationships between Scotland and England. Writers dealing with these kinds of oppositions rely upon precise tools to make the most of them; Barrie’s kit is extensive, including genre play, self-conscious narrative, and relentless revision (all, not coincidentally , noted characteristics of Scottish fiction more broadly). In order to explore these oppositions and tensions, this chapter considers the subtle but sig-nificant influence of Shakespeare on Barrie as a writer for children, and on his redefinition of the concept of the child at the close of thelong nineteenth century. Shakespeare, like Barrie, demonstrates a sustained fascination with in-between spaces and a tendency also to be characterised by that liminality . He was recast over the course of the nineteenth century as both a nationalistic symbol, and an author whose works might be beneficial and entertaining for children.5 Garrick’s 1769 Jubilee set the stage for the rise of Bardolatry which would reach its head in the nineteenth century and secure Shakespeare’s role as England’s national poet.6 Coinciding as it did with developments in education and child-rearing (as well as publishing), this popularity led to the incorporation of Shakespeare’s works into school materials, as well as to adaptations specifically for children and families. Such repurposing leads to fragmentation of identity; in Reinventing Shakespeare, Gary Taylor writes that ‘the nineteenth century sawed Shakespeare in two. The childlike Shakespeare of Lamb and Bowdler emphasised, by contrast, the dangerous sexual adult of the unexpurgated texts’.7 This Jekyll-and-Hyde view of Shakespeare resonates with the way we have come to see Barrie, and the way in which he asks readers to see childhood. Rather than being sentimental or idealised, children for Barrie are ‘gay and innocent and heartless’. Like Shakespeare before him, Barrie ‘recognizes in [children] an element of cruelty’8 – the cruelty of forgetting, the irretrievability of the past, and the Darling children’s faces as they assume ‘the awful craftiness of children listening for sounds from the grown-up world’.9 The unexpected harshness of the child becomes a source of autonomy; that this empowerment is derived from Shakespeare 283 barrie, shakespeare, and playing at childhood and directed towards a juvenile audience is an underexplored distinguishing feature of Barrie’s work, and a primary concern of this chapter. Both writers constructed through their dramas parallel notions of childhood...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781908980304
Related ISBN
9781908980298
MARC Record
OCLC
1104628745
Pages
476
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-15
Language
English
Open Access
No
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