Constructing the Canon of Children's Literature: Beyond Library Walls and Ivory Towers

By Anne Lundin | Go to book overview

Prologue

Reading has always been used as a way to divide a country and a culture into the literati and everyone else, the intellectually worthy and the hoi polloi. But in the fifteenth century Gutenberg invented the printing press, and so began the process of turning the book from a work of art for the few into a source of information for the many. But it was not impossible, and it continued to be done by critics and scholars.

-Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

The printing press promised the democratization of a print culture. Elizabeth Eisenstein's landmark study, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, illuminates the far-reaching, revolutionary implications of the printing inventions of the fifteenth century. Some of these phenomenal effects were the widening of scholarship, a collaborative approach to the collection of data, an ability to improve and correct texts once published, and an interchange between disciplines. She suggests that these cultural transformations are an ongoing process, effecting a museum without walls. Movable type meant the possibilities of a peaceable kingdom of scholarship, where the arts and sciences could unite in a shared discourse in print. While the causes of the modern fall of Babel are complex indeed, we have opportunities anew if we sense our rich shared culture. Professions seem particularly isolated from each other even in our interdisciplinary web of ideas. Only connect the prose and the poetry, the profession and the practice, the child and the book.

I wish to offer a kind of map where professionals engaged in the study and services of children's literature would build a community of scholars, practitioners, hosts of readers, a cloud of witness. We have two stories on parallel lines. Once upon a time that was and never was, a brave woman or two or three stepped into a new world: a professional life apart from family, perhaps far from family, an adventurous, risky endeavor, a living out of dreams, an experience with bringing books and children together. At first, they had to fight to let the children in. No dogs or children allowed. But they persisted even in the limited, gendered world of middle-brow culture and bureaucracy. They found a space

-xiii-

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Constructing the Canon of Children's Literature: Beyond Library Walls and Ivory Towers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Editor's Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • Chapter One - Best Books: the Librarian 1
  • Chapter Two - Best Books: the Scholar 57
  • Chapter Three - Best Books: the Reader 109
  • Epilogue 141
  • Notes 149
  • Selected Bibliography 161
  • Index 167
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