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date: 17 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article asks big questions about children's literature using Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) as case studies: how do “adult” and “child” readers make meanings from children's texts, and how is power exercised over those meanings? From the answers to these questions, it also seeks to discover whether the meaning of a “book for children” can be deduced. The two key factors in approaching a text are who the reader is and why she/he is reading the text; and the only thing that might be confidently stated is that the “adult” reader is more likely than the “child” reader to have a purpose other than personal gratification in reading the text. Because children are part of the critical and philosophical equation, working with children's books requires the kind of complexity, ambiguity, and flexibility that Carroll demonstrated in these densely woven masterpieces.

Keywords: children's literature, Alice in Wonderland, Looking-Glass, Carroll, children's books

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