Language and Control in Children's Literature

Language and Control in Children's Literature

Murray Knowles

Language: English

Pages: 300

ISBN: 0415086256

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This study examines the work of children's writers from the 19th and 20th centuries in order to expose the persuasive power of language. Looking at the work of 19th century English writers of juvenile fiction, Knowles and Malmkjaer expose the colonial and class assumptions on which the books were predicated. In the modern teen novel and the work of Roald Dahl the authors find contemporary attempts to control children within socially established frameworks. Other authors discussed include, Oscar Wilde, E. Nesbit, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis.

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children’s literature has acquired what Humphrey Carpenter calls a ‘dual purpose’ (1985:1). That is that books not only provide an exciting narrative but also contain ‘some moral truth or lesson’, without necessarily reverting to the didacticism of an earlier period. The 1950s and 1960s are generally regarded as seeing a vast improvement in the form and content of literature written for children—a ‘Second Golden Age’ or, as Inglis puts it in writing of Philippa Pearce (1920–), ‘I take Tom’s

is an author regarded by John Rowe Townsend as one of ‘a new generation of writers’ and his 28 Children’s literature in England contribution as a talented, creative and original writer must be acknowledged. We feel, however, that it is no accident that none of his works were cited by our respondents in 1989–90 and this might lend weight to Pamela Cleaver’s comment that: ‘His work is much admired by critics and librarians, but whether it is much enjoyed by children is often questioned. He is,

Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s (1770–1831) conception of human nature and human reason as subject to historical development and therefore open to influence from the changing conditions of individual and social life, that it became possible to conceive that different individuals might understand the universe in radically different ways. So while ‘ideology’ might still be used in de Tracy’s sense, it became possible to entertain the notion of a plurality of ideologies. In addition, the Hegelian emphasis

slightly in the boy’s cold shadow which lay about her, slant-wise, on the grass. He drew back again, his fair head blocking out a great piece of sky. ‘Well,’ he said deliberately after a moment, and his eyes were cold, ‘I’ve only seen two Borrowers but I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds—’ Children’s literature and control 45 ‘Oh no—’ whispered Arrietty. ‘Of human beans.’ And he sat back. Arrietty stood very still. She did not look at him. After a while she

in Theme position and the focus in the clause is not only temporal but violent: then, without warning (and Jerry becomes Agent again but hardly of a process that he controls), he vomited. Two hundred and sixty-five pages further on the narrative reaches the final episode of savagery. There is no preferred outcome here, corruption and brutality have won. Our final glimpse of Jerry is through the eyes of a friend who sees him collapse, having been horribly beaten: [1] Goober watched helplessly as

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