LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Winnie-the-Pooh in Popular Culture

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Is it without second thought to realize that Winnie-the-Pooh has been a well-known piece of work for nearly a century. It has revolutionized the entire genre of children’s novels, that authors have striven to emulate and should strive to emulate. In fact, this text has had such a huge, positive impact on the world that it has had a great deal of adaptations, including: theatre, audio, radio, film, and television. I would like to expand on all of these subsections of popular culture.

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In terms of theatre, there have been two plays adapted from the original text, one called “Winnie-the-Pooh at the Guild Theatre” in 1931, and more recently one called “Bother! The Brain of Pooh” in 1986, which was a one-man show, which is pretty interesting. In terms of audio,  Pooh stories were read in different decades by many different people, including: Maurice Evans,  Peter Dennis, and, David Benedictus. In two different instances, famous celebrities, Carol Channing and Stephen Fry both were involved with Winnie-the-Pooh. In terms of radio, Winnie-the-Pooh was debuted in England almost 7 years before it was debuted in the United States.

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In terms of film, Disney has had a number of adaptations, which were divided into theatrical featurettes and full-length theatrical features, the former being short films, that had varying success. The Soviet Union also had film adaptations, and made a trilogy. The aspect that is interesting about the Soviets, is that unlike Disney, the animation team made a new look for every character, and did not base their ideas on illustrations of Shepard. They played close attention to the original work by Milne, and utilize specific characteristics representative of the characters’ personalities that Disney neglected to do. In terms of television, Winnie-the-Pooh was separated into television shows, Holiday TV specials, direct-to-video shorts, and direct-to-video features.

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Character Analysis: The Psammead

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The Psammead, in my opinion, is the most fascinating character among the texts that I’ve read thus far in LIT 4334. It is depicted as a very grotesque looking character, but through the monstrous appearance there is an amalgamation of nuances that add to the interesting nature of the Psammead. It is described to have eyes like a snail, ears like a bat, a body like a spider, hands and feet like a monkey, and whiskers like a rat. All these descriptions make me think that the Psammead has unparalleled senses, specifically sight, sound, and touch, and this unique trait adds to the unworldly persona of the Psammead. The fact that this is the only Psammead left in existence speaks to the special opportunity that the five children experience. The Psammead has distant memories of events that have long transpired, but can remember them with proficiency. This truly is a sentient beast to a high extreme. In the very beginning of the book, it is told that Psammead is used to granting wishes that are mundane and boring, but the wishes that the children ask the Psammead for are too unfamiliar and too fantastic, that the old standard of wishes being set to stone if unused after a day no longer applies.

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The Psammead interacts with the children through a series of wishes, which it grants. The children ask to be beautiful, to be rich, to have wings, to be allowed in the castle, and to give a wealthy woman’s jewelry to their mother. All of these wishes are materialistic and only cause a degradation of self because they are all complacent wishes, which I believe is why they all cause something to go wrong with each wish. The Pssamead is sort of like a theological or supernatural entity that answers prayers, as it were, but for some unusual reason is portrayed as an ugly, grotesque monster instead of a seraphic being. The Psammead tires of their wishes, and tells them no longer to ask for any more wishes, but the Psammead tells Anthea that the wish she had of all the children being able to see it again will be granted. This wish will/ is granted most likely because it is selfless and is in some sense directed toward the Psammead, causing it to feel appreciated and loved.

Without the Psammead in the text, the story would be utterly nonsensical and without a cohesive plot. The Psammead is the very central character of this story. It is the nucleus of the cell that is the entire text. Without its ability to grant wishes, the children would not have had the adventures that they did, and would not have gone grown as children.

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Extra Credit: Hush

I attended the Graduate Comics Organization on March 15th, and listened to three different speakers, two females, and a male. I did not enjoy the presentation style of the two females because it felt forced, and sans passion for their research. That being said, when Matthew Ziegler, a presenter from Truman State University, spoke, I was very impressed. He delivered his presentation with casual elegance and subtle poise. It was clear that this presentation meant a great deal to him and he used this opportunity to demonstrate that. He gave a very impacting speech about a comic called Hush. This is a comic that originated in India and really intrigued Matthew to learn more. It is a comic that has no words or text, but only images. This way, the story is completely open to subjective interpretation. While this is true, the fact that the main character of the story was raped by her father is very well supported. The images just reveal too much pain to deny that.

The characters of the comic have no names, perhaps as a means to relate to more exterior individuals rather than just the characters in the story. The images that I perfectly remember are images that show pain and sorrow. Images of the main character with a smoking gun in a classroom, which symbolizes the murder she committed as an act of vengeance to salvage some sense of strength. She shot a teacher, who happened to be her father, because he repeatedly raped her throughout the course of her life. She uses the same handgun to kill herself because she kept seeing his image. While this is the basic plot of the story, Matthew was more interested in the way the images were portrayed as means of “speaking” to the audience, because of the lack of any text. The use of emotions, shadows, and gloomy imagery spoke more to me than did the mere appearance of an image as a whole. Matthew mentioned that this story applied to conflicts that are ongoing in India, in which women are the oppressed gender and males have a sense of supremacy. The interpretation that the main character was raped can be used to signify the “rape” of women in a society that is fit for the male gender.

I agree with the speaker, especially because of the manner in which he developed his approach. He stated what he felt about the images as parts and as a whole to envelop the entire text. After he laid out his argument, he went into why he believed it. He was able to support every point he made with the use of the images provided in the comic as sites of evidence. He was asked three questions from the audience and he was able to answer them all with ready success and no hesitation.

I learned just how powerful a small, wordless comic really can be. It told a story simply through the use of images, but it told a much larger story about the strife in India. It made me aware of current events that I was not aware of, and made me feel proud to know that this is another means of getting the knowledge out there.

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Peter Pan in Kensingston Gardens is Suitable For Children

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Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is a very well known text that has been successful for over a century. It is a quick, yet enjoyable read for any age group, but I believe its appeal is more skewed toward children around the age of 7 to around the age of 12. It is a text that seems in the perfect position to be read after a child has grasped the fundamentals of reading, and want to adventure out into a book of greater length and plot development. In terms of aspects of the text that make me feel Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is appropriate for children, the very premise that Peter Pan is only seven days old is a big reason. He is not mature, so it seems easy for a child to suspend his or her beliefs and go along with the story.

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Also, there is a complete absence of any sense of sexuality in this story. For example, Peter Pan meets a girl named Maimie Mannering and within a short period of getting to know her, he asks her to marry him. He skips any sense of intimacy, potentially because he lives with an idea of living eternally. He also has a complex that causes him never to have the desire to grow up, and this is a very good indicator as to why he eschews any semblance of affection with Maimie.

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The progression of the plot is very straightforward, and while the language is not the most elementary, it is still able to be interpreted from a young audience. The use of the second person throughout the text is such an effective manner of involving the audience, especially children, because it provides a sense of an invitation to go along the journey with the characters, instead of simply reading about other peoples’ adventures. The use of pictures also contributed to the text to be directed towards children, as a whole. The pictures were very excellent ways to depict the essence of what was being said in the text, in case children had misunderstood or just needed a pictorial schema of what was occurring.

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The Jungle Book Bibliography

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Cichantk, Meg. “Reception.” sites.google.com. N.p.. Web. 22 Feb 2013.

https://sites.google.com/site/lis719thejunglebook/reception.

 
Flynn, Richard. “Kipling and Scouting, or “Akela, We’ll Do Our Best”.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly . 16. 1991.

 
Inglish, Patty. “‘The Jungle Book’ Review.”classiclit.about.com. N.p.. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://classiclit.about.com/od/junglebookkipling/fr/bl_junglebook.htm.

 
McBratney, John. “Imperial Subjects, Imperial Space in Kipling’s “Jungle Book”.” Victorian Studies. 1992. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3828034.

 
Murray, Stuart. Rudyard Kipling in Vermont: Birthplace of The Jungle Books. Images from the Past, 1997. 198. Print.

 
“Rudyard Kipling Frame.” http://www.kipling.org.uk. N.p.. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://www.kipling.org.uk/kip_fra.htm.

 
“The Jungle Book and Cub Scouting.” usscouts.org. U. S. Scouting Service Project. Web. 22 Feb 2013.http://usscouts.org/profbvr/jungle_book/.

 
Varley, H.L. “Imperialism and Rudyard Kipling.” Journal of the History of Ideas. 14. 1953. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2707499.

 
Wilson, Patricia, and Richard Abrahamson. “What Children’s Literature Classics Do Children Really Enjoy?.” Reading Teacher. 41.4 (1988): n. page. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/20199804? uid=37531&uid=3739600&uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=37526&uid=67&uid=62&uid=3739256&sid=21101731266141.

 

“Welcome to the Jungle Book Collection.” . N.p.. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://www.junglebook-collection.nl/.

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The Role Chess Plays in Through the Looking-Glass

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In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice has barely aged since her last escapades in Wonderland took place. She was born into rich Victorian family, thus solidifying her nobility as a character. I feel that it is important to mention her circumstances because chess is a game that was played by royalty. There are many instances in antiquity in which people play a chess match against Death as a symbol of Fate. This appears to be the case in Through the Looking-Glass.  Alice starts off as a pawn in this new portal existence and she is surrounded by a set of heavily-structured guidelines, much different than her previous experiences. When Alice is a pawn, she is naive and has little knowledge and control over what to do, as she is unfamiliar with this game, even though she is predestined to be a queen, the best piece. Her movements to become a queen happen with great success, but only because she is helped by other circumstances. This new world is divided into chess squares, which are indicated by crossing over a brook or stream, and each time Alice successfully crosses over a square, she gets closer to her goal. Any time Alice lands on the same row as another character, she is interacting with them in some way.  Throughout the text, the characters act in accordance to their corresponding pieces. The Queens go all over the board, which speaks to how powerful they are. The knights falling off of their horses symbolize an L-shaped move which a knight piece does in chess. The Kings are usually cautious and tend not to move very often.

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This whole idea of chess serves as a metaphor for two different points. It points toward the idea that Fate is a predetermined notion and that individuals are guided not by themselves but by exterior forces. Alice has no sense of freedom of thought because she is constantly surrounded by heavily enforced rules and structure. Chess also serves as a metaphor for the maturation or evolution of Alice. Even though she stays the same age throughout the text, her language and attitude change and she becomes more woman-like as she goes up the ranks. When she successfully overtakes the Red Queen, thereby checkmating the Red King, she becomes the best piece and wakes up from her dream.

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The Themes of Identity and Unconditional Love in The Adventures of Pinocchio

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In The Adventures of Pinocchio, perhaps the most overt theme in entire text is that of lying. That is what most children remember or learn from having read The Adventures of Pinocchio. That being said, there are themes that are present in the text that are more important. Those themes are identity and unconditional love, and these are recurring throughout the text.

Identity is very multidimensional in this text, because Pinocchio goes through physical transformations throughout. In the very beginning, he was already talking when he was just a piece of wood with which Mastro Cherry was going to carve into a leg of a table. That’s when Pinocchio showed his first sign of ‘existence’ and this caused Mastro Cherry to give the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, who becomes Pinocchio’s “father” because he decides to make a puppet out of the wood, thus animating and anthropomorphizing Pinocchio. This is essentially, the genesis of Pinocchio, and therefore the beginning of his quest to find his identity. Throughout the text, Pinocchio goes through arduous tasks and encounters many characters who use his foolishness and naivety to their advantage. An instance of this takes place when the Fox and the Cat trick him into planting his gold pieces into the ground to produce a money tree. He believes them, but for good reason because he was planning on helping out Geppetto with the reward, yet he is fooled and robbed of his money. He then is placed into jail because his stupidity made him complicit with the crime. Through every task he endures, he learns something more about himself and his desire to be a good boy deepens. He feels regretful for his past actions and ignorance. It is only after he completes the very selfless act of filling up hundreds and hundreds of water buckets in exchange for milk to aid his father in recovery that Pinocchio transforms into an actual boy, which was a great wish of his. This human-like metamorphosis solidifies Pinocchio’s journey for his identity.

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Unconditional love plays as great a role as does identity for the major themes of this text. Geppetto, while not biologically Pinocchio’s father, has a paternal type of unconditional love for Pinocchio. In the beginning of the text, Geppetto sells his coat for an alphabet book for Pinocchio to be able to go to school, even when the weather was very bad and he was cold. When Pinocchio asks Geppetto why he sold his coat, Geppetto replies, “It was too warm.” Geppetto is the embodiment of selflessness, and that eventually rubs off on Pinocchio. The Fairy provides Pinocchio with unconditional love because she acts as his Guardian Angel throughout the course of the text. She never berates Pinocchio for his shortcomings, yet she always encourages. She makes promises that she never breaks and strives to bring to fruition. She offers forgiveness for his old mischief, and rewards him with human life because he took care of his ill father, thus granting him with his greatest desire.

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Why I Do Not Consider The Water-Babies a Work of Children’s Literature

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It is well-documented that Charles Kingsley wrote The Water-Babies for his youngest son in 1863. While one of his goals was to instill a moral theme, the Golden Rule, for his child to abide by, I, for one, do not think that children should be the intended audience for this text. I feel this way because the text is rife with contradictions and assumptions. The majority of children are unable to garner the true meaning of this text by simply reading the words.

Contradiction seems to be the most observable theme of this text. While it causes chaos from the reader’s end, it is only stabilized by the very neutrality of Tom’s character. There are contradictions of evolution versus Christianity, and influences of good and evil, all of which are complete oppositions. The contradictions presented are more subtextual than overt. For example, the whole world of “water-babies” can be interpreted as a metaphor for an afterlife, yet within the afterlife, the creatures are subjects to evolution. I, for one, do not believe religion and science can coexist because they challenge each other.   Also, Mr. Grimes, Tom’s master, is a malicious figure who seems to indoctrinate Tom with a sense of “evil is right”. However, while Tom’s mind is still malleable, he encounters the Irishwoman, an amalgamation of different characters in one, who represents themes of goodness and purity. These ‘lessons’ are subjected to Tom, who is a perfect example of a tabula rasa, a blank slate, because his unique upbringing caused him to be a perfectly unadulterated figure.

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Kingsley takes a very unusual and questionable position in this text. He assumes that the reader is ‘untouched’ and liberated from ‘commitment’.  That’s very rare to find at his time period, because most children are indoctrinated, in a sense,  to be committed to some ideology, mostly Christianity.  For example, as he narrates the story, he speculates about mere existence. He mentions that anything conceivable that is not visible or tangible, cannot be dismissed or that it cannot be contrary to Nature.  Judging solely off this, it seems as if this text was perfectly written for an Agnostic, which practically a very infinitesimal amount of children are aware of that word or the meaning of it. While I strongly agree that children are very efficient at questioning, they are incapable of deep introspection and contemplation of lifelong questions.

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It is because of Kingsley’s wide use of contradiction and assumption, that this text cannot be classified as children’s literature.  While I appreciate the equal level of deliverance of Christianity versus evolution, I feel that both are subjects that are more appropriate for a certain maturity for appropriate contemplation and evaluation. This text seems very thought-provoking for an adolescent or adult because of the grander meaning of the text instead of what is physically written. That is why I feel this text is best classified under speculative fiction, because of its combinatorial essence of scientific elements and supernatural aspects.

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Introductory Blog Post: Daniel

My name is Daniel. I am a junior currently majoring in English, although unwillingly. I had other goals in mind but this is where everything has lead me and I have no alternative but to ride it out and hope it leads me somewhere.

I am taking this class because it a 3000 level or higher class, which is needed to complete critical tracking. I honestly do not have much interest in children’s literature because I outgrew that phase long ago. I prefer reading something more thought-provoking and mature. That being said, it is interesting to learn about the conflict and uncertainty of children’s literature. I do like how this class assesses my comprehension of the texts. I am looking forward to reading Winnie The Pooh and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’ve read those as a child and would like to see I view those books now. I don’t enjoy participation in any class because I’d rather listen than contribute, and because it is characteristic of grade school. I’m indifferent about group projects because I prefer working by myself as opposed to a group because I don’t like relying on other people; however, I am open to their opinions.

My idea of “children’s literature” is any text that a child can read. It’s an extremely vague classification because the line at which one stop beings a child, physically and mentally is an arbitrary notion. I do not think the issue that is going on today is so important. There is no question that different texts can be viewed critically and be assessed differently, but just let a child read what he or she wants. As for my favorite texts, I enjoyed most of Dr. Seuss’s books and I really liked Winnie the Pooh. I think the term “Golden Age” is a reference to the period in which most of the widely-known “classics” were written by wealthy, white men. The term itself seems somewhat haughty and representative of historical oppression.

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