Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America

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JHU Press, Nov 5, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 257 pages
6 Reviews

The popularity of the Harry Potter books among adults and the critical acclaim these young adult fantasies have received may seem like a novel literary phenomenon. In the nineteenth century, however, readers considered both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as works of literature equally for children and adults; only later was the former relegated to the category of "boys' books" while the latter, even as it was canonized, came frequently to be regarded as unsuitable for young readers. Adults—women and men—wept over Little Women. And America's most prestigious literary journals regularly reviewed books written for both children and their parents. This egalitarian approach to children's literature changed with the emergence of literary studies as a scholarly discipline at the turn of the twentieth century. Academics considered children's books an inferior literature and beneath serious consideration.

In Kiddie Lit, Beverly Lyon Clark explores the marginalization of children's literature in America—and its recent possible reintegration—both within the academy and by the mainstream critical establishment. Tracing the reception of works by Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. Frank Baum, Walt Disney, and J. K. Rowling, Clark reveals fundamental shifts in the assessment of the literary worth of books beloved by both children and adults, whether written for boys or girls. While uncovering the institutional underpinnings of this transition, Clark also attributes it to changing American attitudes toward childhood itself, a cultural resistance to the intrinsic value of childhood expressed through sentimentality, condescension, and moralizing.

Clark's engaging and enlightening study of the critical disregard for children's books since the end of the nineteenth century—which draws on recent scholarship in gender, cultural, and literary studies— offers provocative new insights into the history of both children's literature and American literature in general, and forcefully argues that the books our children read and love demand greater respect.

  

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Review: Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America

User Review  - Lisa - Goodreads

A well researched analysis of the different ways "kiddie lit" is perceived---and often brushed off---by adults in America. An interesting premise with a dry approach. I'll stick with Nancie Atwell, thank you. Read full review

Review: Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America

User Review  - Cara Byrne - Goodreads

From the onset of _Kiddie Lit_, I was eager to read about Clark's take on children's literature, as well as her attempt to answer the questions she raises, including: “How have Americans responded to ... Read full review

Contents

What Fauntleroy Knew
16
Kiddie Lit in the Academy
48
Whitewashing Huck
77
Jos Girls
102
Theres No Place Like Oz
128
Alice and Harry in America
149
The Case of the Disney Version
168
Notes
185
Essay on Sources
239
Copyright

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Page 240 - Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987...

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About the author (2004)

Beverly Lyon Clark is the A. Howard Meneely Professor of English at Wheaton College and coeditor (with Margaret Higonnet) of Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children's Literature and Culture, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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