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EDU12HCL – History of Children’s Literature Adventure Stories Lecture 1 Girls and Domestic Adventure stories © La Trobe University, David Beagley 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "EDU12HCL – History of Children’s Literature Adventure Stories Lecture 1 Girls and Domestic Adventure stories © La Trobe University, David Beagley 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 EDU12HCL – History of Children’s Literature Adventure Stories Lecture 1 Girls and Domestic Adventure stories © La Trobe University, David Beagley 2005

2 References Reimer, M. (2000) Making Princesses, Re-making “A Little Princess”. In Voices of the Other: children’s literature and the post-colonial context. ed. Roderick McGillis. New York: Garland Keith, L. (2001) Take up thy bed and walk: death, disability and cure in classic fiction for girls. London: Women’s press Catalogue and database searches linking “children’s literature”, “gender”, “girls”, “domestic” and similar terms

3 Gender roles Children’s books were (and are still) seen as a mechanism to teach appropriate social values The values required by the hero to achieve the resolution are those deemed socially ideal for that hero

4 Gender roles – 19 th century Boys get Kidnapped, girls get Avonlea Boys go out into the world to encounter their adventures Girls stay home and have the adventures come to them Thus, as the nature of the adventure is largely determined by the setting, it is therefore determined by the gender role Boys active, combative and exploratory, girls passive, nurturing and domestic

5 Gender roles – 19 th century A mixture of the extraordinary and the probable If the events in a story are too mundane, they fail to excite, but a sequence of completely extraordinary events fails to be credible (Butts) The adventure must be within the reach of the reader - it should be possible to believe it could happen to you As girls were presumed to be domestic, sailing away to a rip roarin’ adventure would be too great a departure from the probable – a girl doing a Huck Finn would be almost unthinkable Femaleness exists as an extension of maleness – male “protector” is always nearby

6 Domestic adventure: definition Set in the mundane - From Latin “mundus”, the world - thus, the everyday world, the familiar, not the exotic Situation focussed, not action driven Family is both physical setting and definition of roles and relationships Not a quest narrative, but a discovery of personal awareness Developed into sub-genres: - School stories - Horse stories

7 Gender roles – th century: examples in some classics Little Women (1868) Louisa May Alcott Heidi (1880) Johanna Spyri The Railway Children (1906) E Nesbit Anne of Green Gables (1908) LM Montgomery The Getting of Wisdom (1910) Henry Handel Richardson A Little Bush Maid (1910) Mary Grant Bruce Pollyanna (1913) Eleanor Hodgman Porter Little House on the Prairie (1935) Laura Ingalls Wilder

8 Gender roles – good girls and naughty girls Tomboys and Little Princesses: Many of the key female characters actually buck against the system – e.g. Katy (WKD), Jo (LW), Judy (7LAs), Anne (AoGG), Laura (GoW) Often, they resent the inevitability of the future planned for them, or the rigidity of the social expectations of them They get into scrapes and trouble because they choose to act outside the social boundaries However, most go on to find “true happiness” (usually with a “good man”) to resolve their lives

9 People in their places Behaviour towards other downtrodden people: e.g. Sarah and the poor, servants and foreigners Victorian view: Everyone has a natural place in the great scheme of things – races, genders, nations, economies, invalids The adventures and the pushing of the boundaries enable those places to be stated The moral role of literature: – affirming the world view of its author and era - teaching the child the right way of the world

10 Girls’ roles and empowerment Is this domestic limitation actually empowering? The characters portrayed are realistic They act in commonly encountered situations They face typical limits and boundaries Their reactions are believable and likely They succeed How many people actually sail off to Treasure Island in the company of pirates? How many live in families just coping with each other and the world?


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