Language and Control in Children's Literature

By Murray Knowles; Kirsten Malmkjær | Go to book overview

7

Last thoughts

As Hunt (1990: Introduction) points out, critical writing on literature written with children in mind is a young discipline. Hunt (1990:3) cites Darton (1932) as ‘the first example of extended first-class work in the field’, though his own collection of critical essays begins with Fielding (1749). This, and other early critical work included in Hunt’s collection, evidences a long tradition of concern among those engaged with the socialisation of children about the degree to which children may be influenced by the literary works to which they are exposed. It is also clear that a number of those who have produced such works have done so with a view to affecting child socialisation in various ways.

Since Darton, and particularly since 1980, a number of representative collections of criticism, including two edited by Hunt (1990; 1992), have appeared, and we also have Stephens’ (1992) excellent, full-length book, Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction. None of this work, however, takes a specifically linguistic approach to the literature in question, and in this book we have attempted to fill a part of this gap in the discipline. In doing so, we have drawn on work in critical linguistics, in stylistics and in contemporary theory of ideology.

There is in contemporary theory of ideology a particular interest in language, which arises from the definition of ‘ideology’ as meaning in the service of power—as the mobilisation of language in attempts to establish and sustain relations of domination, of systematically asymmetrical relationships of power. In chapter 2, we suggested that the adult-child relationship is, in many respects, such a relationship; adults are, generally, more powerful than children. For this reason, it can be particularly instructive to study literature written by adults for children. Here, the relationship between writer and reader is, almost by definition, a relationship of domination, so

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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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