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Winner of the Children's Literature Association Honor Book (2007)
As recently as the 1960s, children across America continued to recite in schoolrooms or on auditorium stages poems of strong emotional resonance such as “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “Little Orphan Annie,” and “The Song of Hiawatha.” Many still remember poems with soft rhythmic cadences such as “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” as bedtime verse read to them by their parents.
According to Angela Sorby, these and hundreds of other child-oriented poems, written less for individual introspection than for public performance, became central components of American culture in the period between the Civil War and World War I. She identifies a “schoolroom canon” that some older Americans will still recognize, composed of poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Eugene Field, James Whitcomb Riley, and others whose work was read, memorized, and repeated in pedagogical institutions nationwide. These poems, transmitted through schools, museums, lyceums, and theaters, as well as by newspapers and magazines, accrued cultural power through repetition; as they circulated, they functioned as mnemonic devices that established affective bonds between individuals, institutions, and the nation. Sorby’s final chapter, on the child-voice poems of Emily Dickinson, argues that her reception history in the 1890s should be linked to the discourse of infantilization and pedagogy that dominated American popular poetry of the period and, to a great extent, continues to do so today.
|Publisher:||University of New Hampshire Press|
|Series:||Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies Series|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
ANGELA SORBY is Assistant Professor of English at Marquette University. She has published numerous articles on the schoolroom poets, and on nineteenth-century poetry and mass culture. She has also published her own poems in Distance Learning (1998).
Table of Contents
Learning By Heart
Reading America: Longfellow in the Schools
Learning to Be White: John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snow-Bound
A Visit from St. Nicholas: Pedagogy, Power, and Print Culture
Performing Class: James Whitcomb Riley Onstage
“Seein’ Things at Night”: Eugene Field and the Infantilization of American Culture
Emily Dickinson and the Form of Childhood
What People are Saying About This
“Sorby’s book contributes to previous studies of nineteenth-century postbellum American cultural change through its analysis of the widespread effects of a culture of memorization and recitation but even more importantly by showing the centrality of poetry to discussions of American cultural change. To my knowledge, no work has brought cultural use and conception of poetry to the fore in the discussions of social discourse on childhood, the cultural shift from sentimentality to pedagogy, or on constructions of American national identity. This book will revolutionize an understanding of the place of poetry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American culture.”