Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity.
Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity. By U. C. Knoepflmacher. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1998. xxi+444 pp. $35; [pound]27.95.
U. C. Knoepflmacher is a well-known name in children's literature criticism Children's literature criticism comprises both generalist discussions of the relationship between children's literature and literary theory as well as a literary analysis of a specific work or works of children's literature. as well as in the area of Victorian literature Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837—1901) and corresponds to the Victorian era. It forms a link and transition between the writers of the romantic period and the very different literature of the 20th century. , and with this book he announces his ambitious claim that 'I may well have produced the most comprehensive history (literary and cultural) yet written about the so-called golden age of children's literature' (pp. xii-xiii). Knoepflmacher's project is to examine seven authors, John Ruskin, Thackeray, George MacDonald George MacDonald (December 10, 1824 – September 18, 1905) was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.
Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. , Lewis Carroll, Jean Ingelow Jean Ingelow (17 March, 1820 – 20 July, 1897), was an English poet and novelist. Early life and education
Born at Boston, Lincolnshire, she was the daughter of William Ingelow, a banker. , Christina Rossetti Christina Georgina Rossetti (December 5, 1830 – December 29, 1894) was an English poet. Her siblings were the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, and Maria Francesca Rossetti. , and Juliana Horatia Ewing Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing (née Gatty) (1841–1885) was a writer of children's stories, daughter of The Rev. Alfred Gatty and Margaret Gatty, also a writer for children. , and their writings from the early 1850s to the early 1870s. He particularly wishes to argue that their works for children are determined by issues of gender and the relationships between fantasy, as a genre, and gender.
Knoepflmacher's main framework is biographical, which he feels he needs to defend somewhat against 'poststructuralist literary critics, who distance the text from the author by insisting on the impersonality of all writing' (p. xiv), in the two very short sections on theory and methodology in the whole book (in the 'preface of sorts' and in the 'epilogue'). He writes, then, that 'since I never look at biography as being in any way independent of culture and history, and since my biographical forays always allow the instability and incompleteness of any author's ostensible Apparent; visible; exhibited.
Ostensible authority is power that a principal, either by design or through the absence of ordinary care, permits others to believe his or her agent possesses. design, I hope that you will not be too put off by my occasional probings into adult and child selves' (p. xiv). But, as his own comment, apparently inadvertently, reveals, these 'biographical forays' have extensive consequences for his argument that Knoepflmacher seems unaware of. The most important and pervasive result is the positing of unproblematic 'adult' and 'child' selves, as well as assuming a relatively straightforward category of 'femininity' as being constituted by the self-evidently female (either in the texts or in the biographies). The outcome is that Knoepflmacher's readings of his chosen texts, particularly in the first seven chapters, are largely produced by, and in the service of, his 'biographical forays'. Biography, moreover, here effaces much of the very 'culture' and 'history' Knoepflmacher himself seems so anxious to capture, for positing unproblematic 'child selves' entails the creation of a consistent, trans-historical, and trans-cultural identity. Knoepflmacher follows this path (still favoured in most children's literature children's literature, writing whose primary audience is children.
See also children's book illustration. The Beginnings of Children's Literature
The earliest of what came to be regarded as children's literature was first meant for adults. studies) in the established way: some twentieth-century psychologists and psychoanalysts (Jessica Benjamin Jessica Benjamin is an American psychoanalyst and feminist.
As of 1997, Jessica Benjamin was a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City, and was part of New York University's Postdoctoral Psychology Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and of the New School , Nancy Chodorow Nancy Julia Chodorow is a feminist sociologist and psychoanalyst born 20 January 1944 in New York City. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1966 and later received her PhD in sociology from Brandeis University. , Melanie Klein, Julia Kristeva, and Donald Winnicott) are drafted in, apparently at random, to validate assertions about this 'child'.
With respect to gender, too, an inadequate theorization the·o·rize
v. the·o·rized, the·o·riz·ing, the·o·riz·es
To formulate theories or a theory; speculate.
To propose a theory about. of 'femininity', and its production by biography, lead to the first seven chapters of the book consisting primarily of thematic examinations of texts used to confirm and amplify psycho-biographical speculations about boys separated too early from their mothers and seeking female 'complements'. The problems about the 'child' and the 'feminine' are maintained too by the fact that Knoepflmacher in this (lengthy) book does not mention, or engage with, critics who have raised important challenges and questions about his field: Claudia Nelson's study of gender in nineteenth-century children's fiction, Boys Will Be Girls: The Feminine Ethic and British Children's Fiction, 1857-1917 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press Rutgers University Press is a nonprofit academic publishing house, operating in Piscataway, New Jersey under the auspices of Rutgers University. The press was founded in 1936, and since that time has grown in size and in the scope of its publishing program. , 1991), for instance, or Jacqueline Rose's The Case of Peter Pan or: The Impossibility of Children's Fiction (London: Macmillan, 1984), and he refers only in passing to James Kincaid's Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture (London: Routledge, 1992) without engaging with Kincaid's theoretical challenges.
The last four chapters of the book, however, are stronger and more original. In drawing further attention to the less well-known texts of the women writers Knoepflmacher reads more analytically, uses biography more sparingly and carefully, and offers interesting interpretations based, valuably, on reading these women's writings not as mere imitations of the male fantasy writers' texts but as relevant critiques and revisions of them. Although they do not entirely transcend the theoretical problems Knoepflmacher himself too suddenly and belatedly points towards in the last five pages of his book, it is these chapters which constitute an interesting and stimulating addition to children's literature criticism and Victorian studies.