Children's Literature and the Fin de Siècle

Children's Literature and the Fin de Siècle

Children's Literature and the Fin de Siècle

Children's Literature and the Fin de Siècle

Excerpt

The end of a century inevitably brings both retrospection and prognostication; the time seems to call for taking stock in order for us to see where we've come from and to prepare for where we are going. And so this book offers something of a “stock-taking” The various chapters look back over the past hundred or so years and project forward into the next few years. As you would expect, not every aspect of children's literature receives consideration, but the list of topics that the twenty-one writers included here discuss is impressive: poetry, series books, pacifist fiction, gender issues, religion and literature, eco-criticism, minority experiences, humor and the holocaust, fantasy and science fiction, and computer culture. What allows such disparate topics to cohere is a general interest in ideas encapsulated in the curious locution—fin de siècle. This volume concerns itself with the state of children's literature at century's end.

Fin de siècle captures nicely the diversity of thinking evident in this book's various essays. The phrase reminds us of the end of the nineteenth century, the end of centuries generally, and the end of our own century specifically. As Oscar Wilde's use of the phrase in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) indicates, fin de siècle sounds a millennial ring; more than this, it has apocalyptic implications. Fin de siècle; no, fin du globe. And so how does children's literature reflect such a portentous moment? The essays in this volume provide, at least implicitly, some answers. Picture books that examine the fragile ecosystem remind us that we may be near the end of things; young adult fictions that interrogate gender identities suggest an end to our traditional binary view of the sexes and their roles; the mapping of a century's changes in children's poetry, in nonsense verse . . .

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