Karin E. Westman
This article describes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series' (1997–2007) generic hybridity, focusing on elements of the school story, bildungsroman, and fantasy in the texts. It specifically illustrates how Rowling plays with generic forms and boundaries toward a similar theme: the value of moral agency, born from sympathy for others. The implications such generic hybridity has for a fourth genre are provided. The bildung that Rowling emphasizes is Harry's moral and emotional development, as her choice of narrative style places the emphasis upon subjective, internal experience as much as external actions within the world. Throughout his school years at Hogwarts, all that Harry can be certain of is uncertainty, as he struggles to make the best decision within a complex and competing array of choices. Rowling reveals the dual role children's literature currently serves in contemporary culture, particularly contemporary British culture.
Katharine Capshaw Smith
This article opens up the literary, aesthetic, and cultural contexts of the Harlem Renaissance by discussing how children were imagined within this movement and by examining in particular Langston Hughes' The Dream Keeper (1932). It also argues that both literature and children were crucial vehicles for social change. Hughes' poetry collection, The Dream Keeper, is a landmark publication within the field of American children's literature. This collection contains poems that remain frequently anthologized, and reflects the genius of the artist and the range of his attention and productivity during the 1920s. It enables us to understand the significance of childhood to black cultural reinvention in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, the collection conveys the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and speaks to the particular position of children within that movement. Hughes' poetry seeks to bridge divides between the old and the young, between the folk and the progressive.
This article reviews the documentary evidence against Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908) to argue that the figure of the adopted (white, Canadian) child—and the British child emigrants and aboriginal Canadians who this figure erases—encapsulate ideas about belonging and acceptance within the home and within Canadian national identity. The title of Anne of Green Gables indicates the primary context for Anne's identity as the member of a community—that of the house and the family in the house. Its plot spans the distance Marilla travels from understanding the child who is to enter her home as a farm worker in terms of the child's economic worth to understanding the child as an emotional resource. Additionally, its iconic status as a text in and of Canada suggests the naturalized power of this image of the happy daughter of a happy house.
This article argues that the example of the enormously popular Free to Be . . . You and Me (1972) points to the ways in which childhood became a utopian space of liberation in large part. It starts by setting the Free to Be series into the broader context of second-wave feminist activism. Free to Be is very much a document of liberal feminism, which was by the early 1970s the most mainstream and visible expression of the larger feminist movement. The article additionally investigates three of the specific texts featured in Free to Be: Ladies First, Atalanta, and William's Doll. These three texts showcase different thematic aspects of the Free to Be project. The politics of Free to Be is considered from the perspective of the present day. The Free to Be project's emphasis on sensitive boys and adventurous girls continues to resonate.
This article argues that through a radical retelling of the myth of the fall from Paradise in the His Dark Materials trilogy (1995–2000), Philip Pullman replaces an old mythology of childhood and coming of age with a fresh version which does not privilege innocence over experience or adulthood over childhood. Pullman models a critical engagement with questions about self and other and one's place and meaning in the cosmos. His Dark Materials addresses two strands of Romantic thought: rebellious challenges to religious and state authority; and the Romantic “cult of childhood,” which indulged in an orgy of child worship that prized children's innocence over adults' experience. The article also legitimately and usefully challenges deeply entrenched notions that children are best kept innocent and that one's physical, material, and sexual existence is less significant than the spiritual.
This article addresses how The Bat-Poet (1964) may be used to explore the rich traditions of American children's poetry within a larger literary history encompassing both fiction and criticism. This work responds to what Randall Jarrell perceived as antipoetic times with the nuance and emotional depth that is the province not of criticism but of imaginative literature. The synopsis of The Bat-Poet hardly does justice to the story's enduring intellectual and emotional appeal. The conversation between Jarrell's writing for children and his writing for adults is clear evidence that Lowell was wrong about Jarrell's children's writing being “a nice idyllic thing to do.” The culture is even more hostile to poetry than Jarrell's was.