Erfahrung schrieb's und reicht's der Jugend: Geschichte der deutschen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur vom 18. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert. Gesammelte Beiträge aus drei Jahrzehnten. By Hans-Heino Ewers. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2010. 336 pp.
Notwithstanding Germany's central role in folklore and fairy-tale research since the Grimms' pivotal contribution, the development of criticism about German childrens literature has still received insufficient attention. Hans-Heino Ewers successfully reevaluates the history of German children's literature, analyzing the fundamental aspects of the situation of children and their relationships with adults, school, and religion from the late eighteenth to the twentieth century.
The monograph consists of essays published between 1980 and 2005 and is divided into three parts. The first analyzes children's literature from the Enlightenment to the Biedermeier era, which, for Ewers, represents a fragment of the social history of the emancipation of the bourgeois family. The scholar reconstructs pedagogical attitudes and numerous debates on the most appropriate literature for child recipients.
In the first chapter, Ewers begins his discussion with the 1760-178Os, when books for private tuition of bourgeois children emerged as a specific branch of German literary production. The creation of a market aimed at juvenile readership attests to how this kind of literature was seen as necessary within Enlightenment pedagogy. In the second and third chapters, Ewers discusses the movement of Philanthropism, the major exponents of which set out to reform not only the system of education but also children's literature. Arguing against Locke's idea about early intellectual development, since that method worked to form Wunderkinder, objects of prestige and victims of the parents' vanity, the Philanthropists started looking for material suitable to the child's level of comprehension and transparent in structure that would convey the message of morality through example. Their idea that the processes of learning should be enjoyable changed the structure of handbooks: they took the form of a journey to help engage the child's attention. Philanthropically inspired works were, nevertheless, a strictly authoritative kind of literature; the world of children was separate from that of adults and controlled by them.
In the fourth chapter, Ewers investigates the paradigm shift in the development of children's literature from the Philanthropism to Romanticism, which favored an appreciation for the didactics of traditional storytelling that also allowed them a symbolical or allegorical mise en oeuvre of modern themes or political issues. The Romantic authors preferred the fantastic and the marvelous, declaring folk and fairy tales to be a legitimate form of children's literature. In the fifth section, Ewers focuses on succinct close readings of some tales by Ludwig Tieck, E. T A. Hoffmann, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, arguing that they had antiauthoritarian tendencies, which opposed them to the Philanthropists' works.
The sixth and the eighth sections contain references to the Kindertheater, which emerged in imitation of French school drama in the 1770s and centered on the bourgeois family's everyday life. Ewers provides cultural and biographical context for the literal achievements of August Corrodi, the largely unknown late-Romantic dramatist and illustrator, which created a bridge between Romantic and modern children's literature. Further, Ewers discusses the leitmotif of Biedermeier dramas: the representation of the family by August Rode, C. E. von Houvald, and C. E Weiße. Ewers shows how von Houvald's Schuldrama, while still portraying the family as an emotional union, displayed a number of weak and insecure parent figures who needed the children to dispel their preoccupations. The author argues that von Houvald's plays reflect an increasing dissociation of family from society and comes to the conclusion that early nineteenth-century's Kinderschauspiel is no longer centered on the child's welfare, but on the parents' trauma. …