Children's Literature and the Fin de Siècle

by Roderick McGillis


Expert contributors examine fin de siècle tensions in 19th- and 20th-century children's literature from around the world.

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November 2003


Pages 240
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics The Arts/World Literature
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The close of a century invites both retrospection and prognostication. As a period of transition, it also brings a sense of uncertainty, finality, and apocalypticism. These feelings stem from various events, such as political turmoil, scientific advancements, and social change. As might be expected, literature reflects such changes and the feelings they engender. But perhaps more surprisingly, children's literature is especially sensitive to such matters, and fiction for children often struggles with dark and unpleasant issues. This book examines fin de siècle tensions in 19th- and 20th-century children's literature from around the world.

Each chapter is written by an expert contributor, and the volume ranges over a disparate variety of topics. These include poetry, series books, pacifist fiction, gender issues, religion and literature, eco-criticism, minority experiences, humor and the Holocaust, fantasy and science fiction, and computer culture. In exploring these issues in relation to children's literature, the contributors reveal the shifting nature of our values and the world in which we live. Global in nature, the chapters look at children's literature from such places as Germany, Holland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.

Topic Centers

Introduction: Children's Literature and the Fin de Siécle by Roderick McGillis
A Tale of Three Tenses by Sheila Egoff
The Decline and Rise of Literary Nonsense in the Twentieth Century by Michael Heyman
The Century of the Child: Dutch Children's Poetry in the Twentieth Century by Anne de Vries
Ending Only to Begin Again: The Child Reader and One Hundred Years of Sequel and Series Writing by Rose Lovell-Smith
Voices of Protest: One Hundred Years of German Pacifist Children's Literature by Susan Tebbutt
Walking into the Sky: Englishness, Heroism, and Cultural Indentity: A Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Perspective by Jean Webb
"A Little Child Shall Lead Them": The Child as Redeemer by Margot Hillel
Nineteenth-Century Instances
Lear's India and the Politics of Nonsense by Sumanyu Satpathy
Decadence for Kids: Salgari's Corsaro Nero in Context by Ann Lawson Lucas
"In These Days of Scientific Charity": Orphanages and Social Engineering in Dear Enemy by Claudia Nelson
Modern and Postmodern Instances
Refugee Status: The Displaced Southeast Asian Adolescent in Post-1975 Life and Literature by Alida Allison
The Sky Is Falling: Children as Environmental Subjects in Contemporary Picture Books by Clare Bradford
Playing with Frames: Spatial Images in Children's Fiction by Cheryl McMillan
We Are All in the Dumps with Bakhtin: Humour and the Holocaust by Lydia Williams
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Shifting Shapes of Fear in Contemporary Children's Fantasy: Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife by Millicent Lenz
The Ethical Dimension of Children's Literature: A Study of Drejcek in trife Marsovcki (Drejcek and the Three Martians) by Metka Kordigel
Uneasy Men in the Land of Oz by Yoshido Junko
Representations of Masculinity in Australian Young Adult Fiction by Kerry Mallan
Leaving the Men to Drown? Fin de Siécle Reconfigurations of Masculinity in Children's Fiction by Beverly Pennell
Welcome to the Game: Cyberspace in Young Adult Speculative Fiction by Elizabeth L. Pandolfo Briggs
Competency and Resistance: A Double Perspective on Teaching Books to Children in the Next Millennium by Leona W. Fisher
Selected Bibliography



These essays cohere around the belief that at the end of a century, people have a general interest in ideas encapsulated in that period; as McGillis observes in the introduction, the book sounds a millennium ring; more than this it has apocalyptic implications. A particular value of this book is its inclusion of international children's literature. Included are articles on Dutch children's poetry, German pacifist literature, Italian adventure novels, Slovene science fiction, and Australian young adult fiction....Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.—Choice

[p]resents a satisfying survey of children's literature in its many incarnations throughout the world...A fine set of considerations on evolving trends and characters in kids' literature.—Library Bookwatch

Other Titles of Interest

Interactive Fictions cover imageThe Presence of the Past in Children's Literature cover imageThe Life and Works of Ruskin Bond cover image
Postmodern Approaches to the Short Story cover imageIn My Own Shire cover imageInterfering Values in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel cover image

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