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(De)monstration: Interpreting the monsters of English children's literature. / Jonathan Padley

Swansea University Author: Jonathan, Padley

DOI (Published version): 10.23889/SUthesis.42979

Abstract

This thesis is intended to document and explain the peculiarly high incidence of monsters in English children’s literature, where monsters are understood in the term’s full etymological sense as things which demonstrate through disturbance. In this context, monsters are frequently young people thems...

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Published: 2006
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa42979
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Abstract: This thesis is intended to document and explain the peculiarly high incidence of monsters in English children’s literature, where monsters are understood in the term’s full etymological sense as things which demonstrate through disturbance. In this context, monsters are frequently young people themselves; the youthful protagonists of children’s literature. Their demonstrative operation typically functions not only as an overt or covert tool by which to educate children’s literature’s implied child audience, but also as a wider indicator -demonstrator - of adult appreciations of and arguments over children and how children should be permitted to grow. In this latter role especially, children are rendered truly monstrous as alienated and problematic tokens in adult cultural arguments. They can fast become such efficient demonstrators of adult crises that their very presence engenders all the notions of unacceptability with which monsters are characteristically associated. The chronological range of this thesis’ study is the eighteenth-century to the present. From this period, the following children’s authors, children’s books, and series of children’s books have been examined in detail: • Thomas Day: Sandford and Merton • Anna Laetitia Barbauld: Lessons for Children and Hymns in Prose for Children • Sarah Trimmer: Fabulous Histories • Mary Martha Sherwood: The Fairchild Family • Charles Kingsley: The Water-Babies • Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass • George MacDonald: At the Back of the North Wind • J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Peter Pan, and Peter and Wendy • C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Last Battle) • J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter (The Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, and The HalfBlood Prince). The theoretical notions of monsters and monstrosity that are used to discuss these texts draw principally on the writings on the sublime by Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant, the uncanny by Sigmund Freud, and the fantastic by Tzvetan Todorov.
Keywords: Children, literature
College: College of Arts and Humanities