Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels

Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels

by Richard Locke
     
 

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The ten novels explored in Critical Children portray children so vividly that their names are instantly recognizable. Richard Locke traces the 130-year evolution of these iconic child characters, moving from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip in Great Expectations to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; from Miles and Flora in The Turn of the

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Overview

The ten novels explored in Critical Children portray children so vividly that their names are instantly recognizable. Richard Locke traces the 130-year evolution of these iconic child characters, moving from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip in Great Expectations to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; from Miles and Flora in The Turn of the Screw to Peter Pan and his modern American descendant, Holden Caulfield; and finally to Lolita and Alexander Portnoy.

"It's remarkable," writes Locke, "that so many classic (or, let's say, unforgotten) English and American novels should focus on children and adolescents not as colorful minor characters but as the intense center of attention." Despite many differences of style, setting, and structure, they all enlist a particular child's story in a larger cultural narrative. In Critical Children, Locke describes the ways the children in these novels have been used to explore and evade large social, psychological, and moral problems.

Writing as an editor, teacher, critic, and essayist, Locke demonstrates the way these great novels work, how they spring to life from their details, and how they both invite and resist interpretation and provoke rereading. Locke conveys the variety and continued vitality of these books as they shift from Victorian moral allegory to New York comic psychoanalytic monologue, from a child who is an agent of redemption to one who is a narcissistic prisoner of guilt and proud rage.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Irish Times

Brilliant... Everyone... will be affected by Locke's love for the works he discusses. His commentary sends you rushing back to the original novels, eager to reread them and do your own interpreting.

Wall Street Journal
incisive and entertaining....

— Frank Cottrell Boyce

Times Literary Supplement
While remaining sensitive to the historical and cultural specificity of texts, Locke celebrates these novels...

— Amber K. Regis

Choice

Highly recommended.

Morris Dickstein

Using the portrayal of childhood as his eye-opening theme and total immersion as his critical method, Richard Locke brilliantly reexamines classic novels we complacently thought we understood. He enlarges and freshens our insight into modern works by Salinger, Nabokov, and Philip Roth by placing them in a line that reaches back to masterpieces by Dickens and Twain. This is an intense, subtle, elegantly written, and exceptionally illuminating work.

Richard Howard

Deep, acute, skillful, responsive, and determined to get into these ten famous novels whose exteriors are so glistening, Richard Locke's Critical Children is a major instance of active literary criticism in our moment.

From the Publisher

Richard Locke has done a remarkable job. His criticism operates at a very high level of engagement with the text, pulling into play a wide range of associations and intellectual focus that is rare and exhilarating.

William H. Pritchard

Critical Children is a fine example of literary criticism at its most sensitive and probing and hearteningly reminds us that the criticism of fiction is still possible and worth doing.

Wall Street Journal - Frank Cottrell Boyce

incisive and entertaining....

Times Literary Supplement - Amber K. Regis

While remaining sensitive to the historical and cultural specificity of texts, Locke celebrates these novels; he subjects character to the closest of close readings; he immerses himself and revels in the words on the page.

Jay Parini

Richard Locke has done a remarkable job. His criticism operates at a very high level of engagement with the text, pulling into play a wide range of associations and intellectual focus that is rare and exhilarating.

Years Work in English Studies

a profoundly thoughtful and engaging addition to the field of American and English literary studies.

Publishers Weekly
The title is meant to be taken in several ways exemplifying the multifaceted approach Locke takes in this crackling tour of 10 iconic Anglo-American fictions. All feature children caught in challenging or ambiguous circumstances, among them Oliver Twist, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan, Holden Caulfield, Dolores Haze (aka Lolita), and Alexander Portnoy. Through these children, their creators tackle the hypocritical elements of their respective times, from the 1830s to the 1960s, and these characters, says Locke, are intended as a moral compass. Locke succeeds in giving a fresh mythic quality to the prismlike insights of Dickens, Twain, James, Barrie, Salinger, Nabokov, and Roth (with a nod to the other Roth, Henry). For the most part, the chapters flow into one another. Though a hint of the academic-survey element is detected, thankfully Locke does not feel compelled to subtract from his mission by overjustifying his slim selection of young characters caught in violent situations. His chapters on Dickens and Barrie are outstanding; and Locke may be the first to detect the effect of 17th-century scholar Sir Thomas Browne on Holden Caulfield. (Sept.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231157834
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
07/16/2013
Pages:
218
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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