Language and Control in Children's Literature

By Murray Knowles; Kirsten Malmkjær | Go to book overview

Preface

This book arises from our joint interest in literature written, if not exclusively for children, then at least with child readers in mind. Almost everyone has been exposed to such literature in childhood, almost all parents revisit it with their own children, and very many teachers use it in their everyday work with children. Child educators, along with publishers of books for children, repeatedly stress the importance for success in the education system, and in life in general, of the acquisition of good reading habits early in life, and adult concern about the influence, good and bad, which literature may exert on child readers has a long history. It was such concern, in part, which prompted Edward Salmon, in the nineteenth century, to conduct a survey of children’s reading habits (see Salmon, 1888). Salmon judges such literature chiefly for its moral content, however, and it is commonly agreed that the first scholarly work on English literature for children is Harvey Darton’s Children’s Books in England, published in 1932. As Carpenter and Prichard (1984:142) point out, however, the value of this work was not recognised until long after Harvey Darton’s death in 1936, and it is only relatively recently that children’s literature has come to the fore in academic disciplines such as literary criticism, stylistics and translation studies.

There is, then, a curious discrepancy between the ubiquity and perceived importance of children’s literature, and scholarly research in the field. We set out intending to add to the latter a study with a specific focus on language, because it seemed to us indisputable that the effects, whatever they might be, which literature might work on children, must be mediated largely through the language which constitutes the texts in question.

In fiction, the reality-creating potential of language comes to the fore particularly clearly, and writers have a heightened degree of creative licence. It seemed to us worth while to try to highlight the

-ix-

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Language and Control in Children's Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Children’s Literature in England 1
  • 2 - Literature as a Carrier of Ideology: Children’s Literature and Control 41
  • 3 - Traditional Juvenile Fiction 81
  • 4 - Today’s Young Reader 114
  • 5 - The Fairytale 156
  • 6 - Fantasy Fiction 224
  • 7 - Last Thoughts 262
  • References 267
  • Index 276
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