Lecture 2 - The Invention of Childhood

EDU12HCL - History of Children’s Literature
Week 5 – Lecture 2
The Affecting and Instructive
History of
Chapbooks for
as developed particularly by
Mr. John Newbery,
printer and bookseller
of the Bible and Sun in St. Paul’s
Churchyard London
and how that
Changes in the Philosophy of
© La Trobe University,
David Beagley, 2005
of that time.
Support resources
• La Trobe Children’s Literature web site
• Heyward Library - Reserve - texts and critical
• Heyward Library Subject Guides
• Heyward Library databases - individually or LibXplore
AustLit, AEI, ALISA, AustGuide - Australian
Eric, Proquest, Project Muse, MLA - overseas
Defining Children’s Literature
For there to be Children’s Literature, there must be:
• Children
• Literature
• Children – the concept of childhood, the recognition
that children have needs, interests and capacities
that are different to adults
• Literature – the conscious creation of literary
material specifically for those needs, interests and
Townsend, J.R. (1996) Written for Children: an outline of
English-Language Children’s Literature. 6th ed. London:
Scarecrow Press. (“Part One: before 1840”)
Jackson, M. (1989) Engines of Instruction, Mischief and
Magic: children’s literature in England from its beginnings
to 1839. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press
Shavir, Z. (1986)The poetics of Children’s Literature [online]
Chap. 1 The notion of childhood and texts for the child
Chap. 7. Stratification of a system.
Available: http://tau.ac.il/~zshavit/pocl/seven.html
University of Pittsburgh (2005) The Elizabeth Nesbitt Room
Chapbook Collection [online] Available:
John Newbery 1713-1767
The first successful commercial publisher for children
• Son of a farmer
• Became owner of a printing business in his 20s by
marrying the widow of
the previous owner
• Moved to London 1743,
• Published A Little
Pretty Pocket Book in
• Aimed at newly
prosperous middle
class and their values
John Newbery 1713-1767
Recognized several important commercial points:
• Must appeal to the child
• But do not contradict the values of the parent
• Included giveaways and special offers – e.g. ball,
pincushion, free editions from his shop – with
apparent educational or benevolent purpose
• Constant and regular “penetration” of the market –
build expectations of audience, and brand loyalty
• Have pictures
John Newbery 1713-1767
• Also sold patent medicines – Dr James Fever Powder –
and used the books to promote it
• Mixed the audiences and “hooks” astutely – adventure
and fantasy to interest the children, morals and
education to please the parents
• Established and kept reputation for enthusiasm and
best interests of children
• Mixed with leading literary figures
• USA’s Children’s Book of the Year award is the
Newbery Medal
Goody Two Shoes
Goody Two Shoes
• Typical mixture of fantastic adventure and moral
• Bit of “Shrek”-like tongue in cheek attribution – See
the original manuscript in the Vatican at Rome, and
the cuts by Michael Angelo
• Story drew on Cinderella (prohibited for a time) and
was adapted by other authors, even for adults
The idea of a child
• Children traditionally viewed as “little adults”
• Survival problems - infant mortality rate, economic
survival etc.
• Philosophy and definition - the big change postRenaissance/Reformation:
• Adam vs Baby Jesus
- the child is the “Pure form” of a person
• Adam - the essential sinner, the natural tendency to “go
bad”, has to be dragged back to the Good, conscious
• Baby Jesus - essentially innocent, natural tendency to joy
and play, has to be protected from Evil, gradual training
The idea of a child
1693: John Locke’s Thoughts concerning Education
The mind at birth is a blank page upon which the lessons
of life are to be impressed.
Therefore, a child …
• Has a distinctive nature that is NOT adult
• Has a need for protection against the evils of the
• Has a need for nurture and support
• Should be gradually trained, and allowed to discover
• Should be allowed a time for innocent joys and play
Thus, children’s literature …
• Should be different to adult literature
• Should reflect those elements of a child and
childhood: innocence and joy, protection and nurture,
gradual learning
• So Newbery’s, and the other early books, mix
 childish fantasy (often drawn from folk and fairy
 serious moralising (as warning and teaching)
 dressed up in a format designed for “little” readers:
size, pictures, language, giveaways, etc.
Little Red Riding Hood
Compare Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood” and Grimm’s
• Perrault (late 1600s)
• Written for adults, ambiguous and ironic tone, RRH’s
beauty emphasised, subtle jokes, “sad” ending
• Clear sexual tone and warnings - wolf in bed - RRH is
convinced to join him - is eaten
• Theme of seduction of young girls - who is the
audience who should learn: the seducer or the girl?
Little Red Riding Hood
• Grimms (early 1800s)
• Written for both adults and children - much simpler
expression, RRH’s innocence and nature emphasised,
child-like actions and decisions, happy ending
• Sexual implications removed - wolf is animal rather
than anthropomorphic - dresses in Grandma’s clothes
• Theme is warning for children - obey your parents,
beware of strangers, adults will be there to protect