The Presence of the Past in Children's Literature

The Presence of the Past in Children's Literature

The Presence of the Past in Children's Literature

The Presence of the Past in Children's Literature

Synopsis

Time is one of the most prominent themes in the relatively young genre of children's literature, for the young, like adults, want to know about the past. This book explores how children's writers have treated the theme and concept of time. The volume starts with the application of literary theory and additionally analyzes examples of the juvenile historical novel. In doing so, it also examines changing fashions in criticism and publishing and the pressure they exert on writers. It then considers literary adaptations of myths and archetypes, constructions of history in children's literature, colonial and postcolonial children's fiction, and the treatment of the past in the postmodern era. The book looks at literature from around the world, and the expert contributors are from diverse countries and backgrounds.

While the book looks primarily at literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, it considers a broad range of historical material treated in works from that period. Included are discussions of such topics as Joan of Arc in children's literature, the legacy of Robinson Crusoe, colonial and postcolonial children's literature, the Holocaust, and the supernatural. International in scope, the volume examines history and collective memory in Portuguese children's fiction, Australian history in picture books, Norwegian children's literature, and literary treatments of the great Irish famine.

Excerpt

Ann Lawson Lucas

In the last years of the old, Western millennium and the first years of the new one, we have been made momentously aware of Time. Through the modern miracle of worldwide television, millions of people all around the globe became conscious both of the international celebrations to mark the extraordinary (but man-made) occasion and also of the international inconsistencies which characterize the ways in which we reckon time past and passing. We came to acknowledge the variety, the unreliability, the own-culturecenteredness of our calculations and concepts of time; even the Christian (or once Christian) world could not decide with clarity and unanimity when to commemorate the event which gave rise to the Western calendar. Time is a mystery as yet only partially fathomed by humankind, whether in terms of physics or metaphysics, but it ineluctably shapes our lives and thoughts; like the striking and the snuffing of a match, it kindles us and extinguishes us, and it asserts the rhythm of our brief experience of the world.

Of poetic and philosophical necessity, time is one of the great perpetual themes of literature. In their works writers have always been obliged to represent this sine qua non of life, and for some—from Homer to Dante to Proust—it was a foremost preoccupation; indeed it was one that had been expressed in carved stone and hieroglyphics, from the Andes to Egypt to Easter Island, from time . . .

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