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A reinterpretation of children’s historical time fantasy Dr Barbara Henderson.

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Presentation on theme: "A reinterpretation of children’s historical time fantasy Dr Barbara Henderson."— Presentation transcript:

1 A reinterpretation of children’s historical time fantasy Dr Barbara Henderson

2  Dr Barbara Henderson  Writing name: Bea Davenport  The Serpent House (Curious Fox, 5 th June 2014)

3  A journey through children’s historical time fantasy literature  Why it is a more innovative and significant genre than has been recognised  And then... the start of your own time-travel adventure

4  How I came to write The Serpent House 

5  How I came to write The Serpent House  My three great-aunts worked in service in large houses in northern England at the turn of the twentieth century

6  How I came to write The Serpent House  I wanted to write about having alopecia  My central character has lost her hair following the death of her mother

7  The Victorian and early medieval period were easy to link

8  Leprosy was a colonial disease  Hair loss was a symptom of leprosy



11  John Stephens (1992) believed that historical fiction was facing a threat which would ultimately deprive it of a readership – the decline of humanism...  But it underwent a renaissance and continues to thrive  Historical time fantasy never went out of vogue

12  The first ever time-travel/ time-slip novels:  E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet and Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill (both 1906)

13  Puck of Pook’s Hill shows historical scenes to two children who have conjured up the figure of Puck

14  The Story of the Amulet became the template which most writers of children’s historical time fantasy would follow

15  ‘... A curious new form, utterly removed from scientific rationalism, which for the first time touches English history with an aura of enchantment.’  Linda Hall, ‘Time No Longer’ – history, enchantment and the classic time-slip story. Historical Fiction for Children: Capturing the Past Ed. by Fiona M. Collins and Judith Graham (London: David Fulton Publishers, 2001), p.43. 

16  ‘The books I loved best were....the ones that started in this world and took you to another....On a grey day in Kentish town, Robert and Anthea and Jane and Cyril travel to blue sky through the arch of the charm.’  Francis Spufford, The Child that Books Built. (London: Faber and Faber, 2002), p. 85 – 6.

17  Alison Uttley’s A Traveller In Time (1939) made use of the most up-to-date theories on time, dreams and psychology

18  After World War Two, many writers – particularly female – turned to historical time fantasy to reclaim what was lost

19  But there was more to the works than nostalgia and a need to learn from the past

20  Adrienne E. Gavin sees the past as a metaphor for the creative act or the imagination

21  ‘The child protagonist’s experience of the past is the equivalent of the writer’s experience of writing and the reader’s experience of reading’ –  Adrienne E. Gavin, The Past Reimagined: History and Literary Creation in British Children’s Novels after World War Two. From The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature Ed. by Ann Lawson Lucas, (Westport, CT and London: Praeger, 2003), p. 160.

22  ‘[T]he persistent association of childhood with an unfettered imaginative capacity helped to position the fantasy genre as particularly valuable to children’  - Lucy Pearson The Making of Modern Children’s Literature: Quality and ideology in British children’s Publishing of the 1960s and 1970s, (PhD,2010), p.47.

23  In such texts, real or imagined history ‘is no more “unreal” than any other elements of the novel. Everything in the story is created and unverifiable. As readers, we only get to the past through layers: the layer of the writer writing the story, of the character experiencing the past, of the stories told by historical characters. As we peel each layer off, we are no more certain of “truth”; each layer is a creation, a fictional act’  - Adrienne E. Gavin.

24  ‘Awareness of the past is an achievement of the imagination’ – Penelope Lively  Child protagonists in historical time-distort fiction use these imaginations to re-create a history that they have never experienced; the writers rely on textualised narrations of the past to form their own imagined versions of it – Adrienne E. Gavin.

25  Historical ‘accuracy’ is something of a chimera for the writer

26  “Awareness of the past is an achievement of the imagination” - Penelope Lively  Child protagonists in historic time fantasy use their imaginations to recreate a history they have never experienced  Writers rely on textualised narrations of the past

27  The link between history and the literary imagination is an obvious one  The stopping or slowing of time allows the imagination/memory to move through the past within a shorter or distorted time frame


29  Links with the notion of ‘living history’  The historical time fantasy genre may offer solutions in its openness to other histories than nationalistic once and because it often avoids the dangers of nostalgia  - Tess Cosslett, History from Below: Time-Slip Narratives and National Identity. The Lion and the Unicorn 26 (2002), p. 243 – 253.

30  The time fantasy genre has been used to explore difficult subjects  Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988)

31  “Is it easier for a child caught between youth and adulthood to believe in layers of time that can be crossed or swum or peeled away? Certainly it is easier than the simple memorisation of rote fact. A ghost recalling history is more exciting than [a teacher] squeaking out dates”  - Jane Yolen, ‘An Experimental Act,’ Reprinted in Language Arts, Vol. 66, No. 3, (March 1989).

32  “I believe it is a straight road into memory, an experimental act for an understanding of the past. It is a once-upon-a-very-real-time, making history immediate and accessible for the young reader, letting them see backwards through a very clear lens”  - Jane Yolen

33  Time travel texts ‘give children back their memories, by making history an experiential act’ 

34  Gary Crew’s Strange Objects (1998)

35  Susan Price’s The Sterkarm Handshake (1998) 

36  Historical time fantasy injects the past with magic  And makes the modern perspective apparent  History is more ‘fict’ than fact – Jill Paton Walsh

37  Time fantasy guided writing exercise

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