Cradle and All: A Cultural and Psychoanalytic Reading of Nursery Rhymes

Front Cover
University Press of Mississippi, 1992 - Social Science - 163 pages
From earliest childhood the nursery rhyme, one of the most captivating genres in our popular culture, has transmitted powerful messages to the child who hears it. These meanings may not be the ones adults perceive or intend, for such didactic precepts as the beneficial need of self-control, social order, and academic responsibility also can be weighted with sadistic, angry connotations that lie deep in the human spirit.
In Cradle and All nursery rhymes are shown to be both the instruments that tell children of the mortal hunger for understanding and the ones that reveal to them the bewildering failure of human beings to control the forces in the natural world that oppose them. Thus in bearing a double load of meanings nursery rhymes remove the blinders and push children toward the life of contrasts that abound in their culture.
This fascinating examination of the pervasive influence of nursery rhymes reveals patterns of psychological and cultural meaning in a broad range of rhymes, grouping them according to basic subject matter: animal rhymes, courtship and marriage rhymes, lullabies and amusements, and didactic rhymes.
Combining the tools of psychoanalysis, literary criticism, folklore studies, cultural history, and cultural anthropology, Cradle and All explores meanings and motives that lie deep in many rhymes that are the fundamental literature of the nursery this illuminating study also assesses attempts to sanitize rhymes by removing elements that some deem as needlessly violent, antisocial, and sexist.
Cradle and All is unique in its analytical treatment of a large number of rhymes grouped in broad subject areas. In its diverse and comprehensive approach it will appeal to all who enjoy the lore of childhood literature.
In reflecting the complex world of kindness and cruelty, history and fantasy, morality and amorality peace and aggression, and the multitude of paradoxical forces that permeate human life, nursery rhymes offer vivid truths to the impressionable senses of children.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER ONE Jumping over the Moon Finding
CHAPTER TWO Pussys in the Well
CHAPTER THREE Wooing and Wedding

5 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information