Constructing Childhood:  The History of  Early Children s Literature and the Place of Fairy Tales

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Constructing Childhood: The History of Early Children s Literature and the Place of Fairy Tales

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1. Constructing Childhood: The History of Early Children’s Literature and the Place of Fairy Tales English 507 Dr. Karen Roggenkamp Image: Orbis Sensualium Picture Facsimile of 1672 English Edition

3. Analyze children’s literature in order to . . . Uncover culture’s ideal views of “childhood” Examine society’s concept of self Interrogate individual author’s relationship to broader cultural contexts Viewed across time, provides insight into our own concepts of childhood and “normalcy” Image: Arthur B. Houghton, Mother and Children Reading, 1860

4. What did “childhood” mean? Key shifts: “Augustinian” paradigm (17th Century, Puritans): Children innately corrupt, sinful; animalistic nature (self will) must be constrained; spiritual objectives; instruction through punishment “Educationalist” paradigm (18th century; Locke): Children’s minds offer a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which to write; neither good nor evil by nature; intellectual and moral objectives; instruction through logic and reason; literature “to instruct and delight” “Natural Educationalist” paradigm (18th-19th centuries; Rouseau): Children innately pure, wise; “childlikeness” (self will) must be developed and protected from corrupting social institutions; emotional and moral objectives; instruction through non-directive means 40 years ago: children need to read about harsh realities of life

5. “Children’s Lit” in Ancient World (roughly 50 BCE / BC - 500 CE / AD) Oral tales – heard, not read Hybrid audience—children and adults alike Aesop’s Fables—animal tales with pointed morals—not just for children Guide/shape citizenry; entertain Image: John Ogilby, The Fables of Aesop, 1673-75

6. Middle Ages (500 – 1500) Low literacy—class-based Childhood generally ignored—short and not so sweet “Little adults”—cf. portraiture Medieval epics, romances, histories for adults also held children’s interest (e.g. Beowulf, King Arthur, Robin Hood, lives of saints, historical legends, etc.)

7. Medieval Fables (500 – 1500) Mingle “reality” with magic, fantasy, enchantment; animal characters Literature rich with “childlike” elements (wonder, mystery, fantasy, etc.) Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans), late 13th century: moral tales; animal tales; familiar story plots for centuries to come (Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare) Image: Early Manuscript, Gesta Romanorum

8. European Renaissance (1500 – 1650) Printing Press (mid 15th century): Print books in quantity—reduce time, labor, cost Increased literacy, promoted education, disseminated knowledge and practice of reading Eventually change nature of childhood, children’s literature, and fairy tales Image: Replica of early Gutenberg press

9. Bad Boys and Girls: Protestantism, 17th-century Puritans, & Roots of “Modern Childhood” Ideal of universal literacy Children products of original sin; prepare for adult religious experience Instructional books, conduct books Primers: teach reading, but also turn innately sinful children into spiritual beings Themes of death, damnation, conversion Image: From New England Primer, circa 1690

10. A little light bedtime reading . . . Popular reading for Protestant children: Book of Martyrs (1563), Anti-Catholic account of “Bloody Mary” The Day of Doom (1662), poem of damnation of world Images: Thomas Foxe, Book of Martyrs, 1563; Michael Wigglesworth, The Day of Doom, 1662

11. Children can be Reasonable, too: The Enlightenment (late 17th, 18th centuries): John Locke (1632-1704) Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) Young mind as tabula rasa (blank slate) Children not burdened by original sin Logical beings awaiting proper education—rational writings Whole new construction of childhood—distinct phase of life Image: John Locke

12. Romanticism (late 18th, early 19th centuries): Enter Innocence Jean-Jacques Rousseau Emile (1755)—Children should be raised in natural settings, free to imagine Children naturally innocent, moral – “The child is the father of the man” (Wordsworth) Books should free children’s imaginations Romantics influence writers of Golden Age Image: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

13. Folktales, Fairy Tales, and the New Child Complicated role of “fairy tales” in literary history of 18th, 19th centuries Romantic interest in folktales—collect “authentic” culture But Enlightenment thinkers disapprove—folk culture too “childlike” and fantastic “Fairy tales” eventually deemed appropriate only for children and “the folk” (peasant, “simple,” lower class) More educated could be intellectually interested in folk culture and the LITERARY tale

14. Key Figures of Literary Fairy Tale Charles Perrault (1628-1703) Tales from Times Past; or, Tales of Mother Goose (1697) Retellings & “literary” renderings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Some explicitly directed toward children Image: Histoires ou Contes du temps passé avec des moralitez, 1697

15. Key Figures of Literary Fairy Tale Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Nursery and Household Tales (1812-1815) directed explicitly toward children “Clean up” folktales; develop Perrault’s “literary” fairy tales Rewrite to fit 19th-century sensibilities and ideas about morality, politics, social class, etc. Image: Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm, illus. Arthur Rackham, 1917

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