EDU 21ACL – Australian Children’s LiteratureAustralian Family Stories Lecture 1 What are Family Stories? © La Trobe University, David Beagley, 2006
References • Foster, J (1995) The People: Family Life versus Individualism. Chap.8 in Australian Children’s Literature: an exploration of genre and theme. Ed. Foster, Finnis & Nimon. Wagga, NSW: CIS • Ingram, L (1991) The Family Story: a context for care. Chap. 11 in Give Them Wings: the experience of children’s literature. Ed, Saxby & Winch. Melbourne: Macmillan. • Saxby, M. (1997) Books in the Life of a Child. Melbourne: Macmillanchap. 16 – The Family Story
Defining a ‘family story’ IN family, ABOUT family, or FOR family – setting, theme or audience? • Aspects of family as narrative features – e.g. unity, loyalty, identity, responsibility, etc. • What does the story tell about families? – definition, roles, pressures, etc. • Readership and common elements to be shared by the various “stakeholders” in a family
IN family IN family - not just a convenient setting. • Family is the key social institution experienced by children. • Thus it provides the framework for observation and analysis of behaviours and relationships, drawing on the pre-knowledge each reader brings. • Leads to …
ABOUT family ABOUT family - thematic exploration • consideration of traditional structures and the host of variations • examination of elements that affect family situations: • Roles • Relationships • Pressures • Personalities • Choices
ABOUT family Historical development - • 19th century moralising tale to reinforce parental/adult expectations of “good” children in their place (and everyone else in their’s) • Mid 20th century introduction of less than perfect children & their perspective • Late 20th century examination of alternative family structures and their problems • Therefore, it allows …
FORfamily Diversity of stories for diversity of families • Each family is a unique social group • Family members are each unique in that particular group (roles, relationships, personal histories, etc.). • Therefore, as audience for the writer, each family member reads their own message in a family story
Remember the 4 approaches? Four approaches to Literature - Schemes of interpretation:Psychological - Structural - Sociological - Archetypal • Psychological - dealing with the personality, emotions and identity of an individual • Structural - how the techniques of literary creation shape the reader’s response • Sociological - what can be understood of our own society from the elements and features of the story • Archetypal - the cues and clues that keep recurring here, there and everywhere
Psychological interpretations for family stories • The presumed appeal to the child reader (actual or constructed) as a commentary on personal experience. • Representation in family stories. Should these texts be represented as recognisable of actual family dynamics and roles? Ideals and desirable roles? • Fiction as a mechanism to deal with reality
Sociological interpretations for family stories • Comparisons and contrasts with modern families as depicted in a variety of contemporary and ‘classic’ programs. • All ‘types’ of families rather than a middle-class subgroup? • Authorial values in relation to parental, gender and sibling roles, social values, and the exercise of power and discipline within the families.
Structural interpretations for family stories Plot, character and stylistic conventions of this kind of narrative. e.g. • child’s experience as central to plot • absent or problematic parents • personal narrative (1st person, diary, etc.)
Archetypal interpretations for family stories Patterns and motifs within the genre. • What has been borrowed from the past? • How have these been altered to meet the presumed needs of a society in the early 21 century? • Are they stereotypes or archetypes?
Criteria for assessing Family Stories • Does the book claim to offer an account of a typical or unique family? • Is this claim convincing? • To what extent are stereotypes of class, gender and sibling roles presented or resisted? • Will these help or hinder reader identification with characters?
Criteria for assessing Family Stories • Are the events and characters depicted likely to appeal to children? • Will this book reward young readers by offering worthwhile insights into ordinary experience related to family life? • Does the book tend to offer overt or over-simplistic moral lessons about family responsibilities, duties, rights and desirable roles?
Criteria for assessing Family Stories • Is there a plot resolution and is it convincing in terms of ordinary experience? How does the author deal with the challenging problem of resolving or 'rounding off' reality in the final chapters? • Does the book offer anything new to this sub-genre in terms of theme, plot or characterisation? • Is the book likely to become dated in its version of the contemporaryfamily and issues confronting children within it?