Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity

Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity

by U. C. Knoepflmacher


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Behind the innocent face of Victorian fairy tales such as Through the Looking Glass or Mopsa the Fairy lurks the spectre of an intense nineteenth-century debate about the very nature--and ownership--of childhood. In the engagingly written Ventures into Childland, U. C. Knoepflmacher illuminates this debate. Offering brilliant rereadings of classics from the "Golden Age of Children's Literature" as well as literature commonly considered "grown-up," Knoepflmacher probes deeply into the relations between adults and children, adults and their own childhood selves, and between the lives of beloved Victorian authors and their "children's tales."

As Knoepflmacher shows, male and female constructions of childhood in these fairy tales differed radically. Male writers--John Ruskin, William Makepeace Thackeray, George MacDonald, and Lewis Carroll--often displayed an uneasy relation to adult gender roles. By privileging a special girl reader, they attempted to blur sexual differences and sentimentalize an arrested childhood. Female authors, on the other hand--Jean Ingelow, Christina Rossetti, and Juliana Ewing--tried to wrest fairy tales away from the male authors who had appropriated the genre. These women's tales relate fables of growth that are more grounded in actuality than the men's, and that more often allow their girl characters to mature.

Far from being outdated, these disputes are poignant at a time when our inherited notion of childhood as a precious preserve seems seriously threatened. Ventures into Childland will delight and instruct all readers of children's classics, and will be essential reading for students of Victorian culture and gender studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226448169
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 06/28/2000
Edition description: 1
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Buttonholing the Reader: A Preface of Sorts
List of Abbreviations
1. Entering Childhood: The Double Perspectives of Generation and Sex
2. Resisting Growth: Ruskin's The King of the Golden River
3. Growing Up Ironic: Thackeray's The Rose and the Ring
4. Mixing Levity and the Grave: MacDonald's "The Light Princess"
5. Expanding Alice: from Underground to Wonderland
6. Shrinking Alice: from Wonderland to Looking-Glass Land
7. Erasing Borders: MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind
8. Sundering Women from Boys: Ingelow's Mopsa the Fairy
9. Razing Male Preserves: From "Goblin Market" to Sing-Song
10. Avenging Alice: From Sing-Song to Speaking Likenesses
11. Repairing Female Authority: Ewing's "Amelia and the Dwarfs"

What People are Saying About This

James R. Kincaid

This is the most important book in Victorian studies in some time, all the more important because it is so witty and carefree, so at ease with its own significance.

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