LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Theme and Moral in A.A. Milne’s The World of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner

 A.A. Milne’s poems and stories were greatly influenced by his wife Daphne and his son Christopher Robin.  The most obvious influence, however, came from Christopher Robin’s stuffed animal toys that he had as a child.  The toys took the form of animal characters in Milne’s Pooh stories: Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Piglet, and, of course Winnie-the-Pooh, also known as Edward Bear.  The picture below shows Christopher Robin’s actual toys that influenced his father.  These toys are held in a display at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York.

 

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Each one of the animals in the Pooh stories is different in their own way, not only because they are different animals biologically, but they also have different personalities.  The differences among the animals are highlighted throughout the novel by repetition.  When Eeyore lost his tail, Pooh offers to help him find it.  To this nice gesture, Eeyore expresses his gratitude and explains that he is a good friend while others are not (Milne 49).  Pooh sees Kanga and wishes that he can jump like her.  To this, he says, “Some can and some can’t.  That’s how it is” (Milne 106).  When Pooh takes Tigger to Piglet’s house, Pooh briefly warns him to not be bouncy because Piglet is a small animal who does not like bouncing (Milne 200).  Then, Pooh and Piglet take Tigger to see Eeyore and Piglet warns him to not take much to mind of Eeyore because he is always “gloomy” (Milne 205).  Each of the animal characters is different and they are aware of it.  The idea that “some can” and “some can’t” is repeated throughout the novel, thus portraying the differences among each character.

Milne chose to repeat this motif because I believe that he wants to inform children that everyone is different.  Everyone should be accepted for who they are, even if they think he or she is different, or in Pooh’s case, a “Strange Animal.”  However, I believe that Milne chose to repeat this moral to prepare the young readers for the most important moral at the end of the novel.  He uses the repetition of the motif to present the moral that every child will grow up.  Christopher Robin, the only non-animal character in the novel, leaves the fantasy-imaginary-like Hundred Acre Wood for school, which represents the “reality.”  Christopher robin, a human child, leaves behind the animals, which are symbolic of his toys, representing his leave of childhood.  He represents the child who grows up and moves on, unlike his animal friends who can not change or grow up; they are static characters, as the toys are inanimate objects.  The difference between characters is highlighted as Christopher Robin’s leaves, portraying the moral of growing up.

These motifs enhance the overall understanding of Milne’s message.  Young readers are taught that everyone has to grow up out of their childlike ways where imagination, egotism, narcissism, friendship, and adventure exist.  Along with this rather sad moral, he also presents a little positivity.  Milne gives the children hope that Christopher Robin and Pooh will be reunited and that their friendship will remain in tact.  They promise each other that they will not forget one another and that they will visit each other (Milne 361).  For the adult audience, Milne reminds us that there is still a child within us.  He reminds us this with the last quote of the novel: “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing” (Milne 362).  Milne reminds the adult audiences that no matter what happens or how old we get, we are still young at heart.

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Winnie-the-Pooh Bibliography

 

 

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Extra Credit: Panel 16- Marxist Reading Group “Rethinking Work”

The Marxist Reading Group panel I attended was held on Saturday, March 23rd, where panelists Kim Emery and Rebekah Fitzsimmons presented their papers on “Performance Counts: Productivity and Faculty Work” and “Professional Disputes and Early Reader Picture Books” respectively.  Although Kim presented contemplative points about work as labor and its means of measurement and rewards in hyper exploited conditions, I found her overall analysis of “work one” and “work two” difficult to follow.  Therefore, my blog will focus on Rebekah’s presentation.  Rebekah’s paper covered many points in the field of children’s literature, but I will only discuss a few of them and their connection with our class, while including my thoughts on them.

Like we discussed in class, Rebekah noted the control adults have in children’s literature.  Adults write the books, buy the books, and librarians market certain ones through displays, thus directly affecting the types of books consumers and children submit to.  Rebekah said that parents have a “patriotic duty” to get involved in children’s literature and that they should be more “savvy consumers” in the field.  These points go along with what we discussed since the beginning of class when we talked about Deborah Stevenson’s article, “Classics and Canons.”  Stevenson explains that children’s literature, as an academic, is controlled by adults; the content is written for adults who buy the books, so it is doubly removed.  I thought it was interesting that she made this connection to class by mentioning one of the major pivotal points in children’s literature.

Rebekah also argues that education is linked to the middle class.  I can agree with this point because there is an appeal to the middle class and people generally want to enter it.  And once you are “in it,” you have more available access to money, leisure time, etcetera.  With these privileges, one can afford to be educated.  So, I see where she makes the connection with education and the middle class dream.  Furthermore, this argument she makes in her paper made me think about the specific definition of the middle class.  I wondered what really defines the middle class and how do people get into it if the cycle of poverty and illiteracy keeps shifting.

Another major point Rebekah made, which I found interesting, was that the consumer culture and childhood are related.  The impurity of the money can relate to the purity of childhood.  I never thought of the two fields connecting in this way.  Primarily, I read the relation as the big companies exploiting the children for their own benefits and their own profit.  However, they are, at the end of the day, helping the children and their families and, essentially the country, if you look at the big picture, by raising literacy rates.  Also, Rebekah points out that the consumers are not buying the content of the picture books; they are buying the open access to them.  I agree with all of these points; the consumer and administration relationship is undeniable related.  In my opinion, it just seems like exploitation because small children are involved; in fact, the companies are simply using the child crowd to capitalize on their businesses.  These points also made me think about how parents can be savvy consumers.  How can they be savvy consumers?  First of all, they will need money to consume; second, they will need the time to set aside to make savvy-consumer-decisions; and finally, they will need to be literate and educated on the product and business they are buying from.  In order to have these qualities to be a savvy consumer, one needs to be of middle class, which brings me back to my previous question: how do people enter the middle class via education if the class lines are constantly being defined?

Obviously, the children literature field of study is a complex one.  Economics, big companies, consumers, children, and parents are all significant factors in children’s literature.  After attending Rebekah’s panel, I was able to reconsider the notion that children’s literature can be “figured out.”  In other words, I came to the conclusion that there are no right or wrong answers in children’s literature; instead, everything is a debate and is complicated due to the number of factors to consider when making any sort of claim.  The panel opened my eyes to another niche in children’s literature, one that involves the economy.  I was able to understand, in class discussions, that parents are a significant force in children’s literature, however, I never considered the companies or the class of the parents in the equation.  The new ideas that Rebekah pointed out about the middle class and the consumers’ relationship with the administration are important thoughts to use in future class discussions.

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The Classic Character

never grow up

            While doing research for my group’s presentation on J.M. Barrie and his most well-known character Peter Pan, the question emerged whether or not this was considered a classic. Prior to this class, I was never of aware of the Little White Bird or Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and my knowledge of the boy who would never grow up was mainly secluded to what Disney mass produced as a part of the “Masterpiece Collection”. While I agree that Peter Pan is a classic, it is not the books, but rather the character that has true lasting power in the cannon of children’s literature. Barrie’s novels have the ability to apply to both the audience of the child and the adult, which is certainly no easy feat, and a result of popularity, this story has been able to grow into a category of its own, which continues to be proliferated today. However, Peter himself is the true star that endures as an archetype of the boy who never turns into a man. While Wendy, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys all serve an important part and are certainly known in their own right, it is the story of Peter that consistently prevails.

Peter Pan, the self-assured and smug boy of Neverland, has helped this story achieve notoriety because of the theme that he represents to many children and adults. In a society where we are forced to grow up and accept the realities of our day-to-day lives, Barrie questions this as he creates a character who not only refuses to grow up, but is also proud to stay a boy forever. As a result of Peter Pan, Barrie was able to capitalize and create multiple story lines as well as create a play that made this character an idol to those who wished they could step away from their own responsibilities and never stop believing in the impossible. While in all reality, Peter Pan is certainly not pure and innocent, his mischievousness goes unnoticed at times because I believe people are more focused on wishing they were more like him, living life free of accountability, and with the belief that they can do anything, including fly.

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Fairy Tales: Depicting the Development of Female Gender Roles

          For centuries, fairy tales have permeated many cultures and societies. While these tales often served to entertain children and/or teach them morals, they also serve as reflections of the societies and time periods in which their numerous versions developed, spread, and were transcribed. In particular, the evolution of many tales follows the development of gender roles and expectations of the societies in which they originated. This can be seen in how many popular tales have adapted over time and are depicted in popular culture today.

            In many traditional fairy tales, female characters fell into a dichotomy, filling the role of the heroine or the villain. The heroine was a depiction of the ideal young woman: beautiful, compassionate, youthful, calm, and often naïve. The female villain is depicted as older, often a mother figure (or stepmother), who is cunning, jealous, and downright malicious. This could be seen in tales such as “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” both of which featured a young, beautiful, virtuous young woman at odds with a malicious, jealous stepmother. This dichotomy reflected the common conceptions of women during the time that they were told and transcribed, as women were valued for their beauty, youth, and virtue, while ambitious, scheming, outspoken women were seen as tainted, inappropriate and improper.

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Cinderella startled by her stepmother’s reflection as she comes up behind her.

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Snow White and her stepmother disguised as an old beggar.

            With the dawn of filmmaking in the 20th century, fairy tales began to appear in a new medium, and eventually became wildly popular. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of this wild popularity in many different forms, such as film, television, and music, and in adaptations that reflect modern depictions of gender roles. For example, in the 2012 movie Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White, though similar to film adaptations of earlier films, is depicted as much stronger, outspoken, and motivated, as the audience sees her suit up in armor and fight for the kingdom that was rightfully hers. In another adaptation of “Snow White,” Mirror, Mirror, also released in 2012, the audience watches as an in-control, and clever Snow White feeds her stepmother a poisonous apple originally meant for herself. These films are just a few examples of contemporary adaptations of traditional fairy tales, with more outspoken, clever, and go-getting modern heroines that are much more reflective of the typical woman in our American society today.

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Introducing Brittany Fining

Hello, class! My name is Brittany Fining.

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          I am a fourth year student majoring in English with minors in Education and Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. My hobbies include reading, running, and spending time with my family and sorority sisters. I am originally from Brooklyn, New York, but lived in New Jersey for most of my childhood before moving to Punta Gorda, Florida just before high school. Upon graduation, I will be moving back to New York City to teach as a Teach for America 2013 Corps member. I could not be  more excited to move back to my favorite city and start impacting students’ lives!

I am really looking forward to taking this course. Since my plan for the past two years has been to teach after I graduate, I have found that taking classes on children’s and adolescent literature and culture have seemed not only most relevant to me, but have also interested me the most. This will be my fifth class offered by Center for Children’s Literature and Culture. This semester, I am looking forward to revisiting many of my favorite stories from my childhood, such as The Wizard of Oz and The Secret Garden, and analyzing them from a new, scholarly perspective.

I have loved reading since I was a small child. My favorite thing about books is that no matter how many times you may read them, they always affect you differently depending on where you are in life at the time that you are reading them. My favorite book from my childhood is The Giving Tree, a picture book written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein. To me, children’s literature refers to books that are primarily targeted toward children. I have learned, though, that often “children’s” books are much more structurally and thematically complex than they seem when taken at face value. To me, the term “Golden Age” refers to the time in our culture when the idea of children was romanticized, and children were treasured. It’s end marked a turning point not only in our literary culture, but our general social culture, in reference to how children were regarded.

I am looking forward to further exploring these texts and  topics throughout this course and getting to know you all better!

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Introductory Blog: Nicole Georges

kid lit Hi! My name is Nicole Georges and I am a senior graduating in Political Science with a double minor in English and Theatre. I am from St. Petersburg, Florida.

I have always loved reading and as a result of growing up as an only child, I found solace and comfort from the characters that I would read about. While my outgoing personality never allows much room for silence, I am most comfortable when I find a good book that can make me forget about what is going on around me.  My love for reading began as a child, which is to some extent a  reason for taking this course; to go back to a time of innocence and naivety where my main concern was to stay up later than my bed time in order to get to the next chapter of a book. As I’ve grown older, it has become increasingly more difficult to find the time to appreciate literature, and I am hoping that this class will rekindle the love I felt every Friday night when my dad would take me to Barnes & Noble to get a new book.

It is difficult to say which text I am looking forward to reading most, because each of  these novels has in some way shaped my reading as a child. However, what I am most looking forward to in this course is the ability to revisit these timeless classics to take a more analytic look in order to assess a deeper meaning and message that I may have missed prior.

My idea of “children’s literature”, and more specifically, the Golden Age of this genre, is that this is the beginning of the imaginative minds of many children. In the fables of Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glassand The Wonderful Wizard of Ozchildren are given the ability to imagine a world completely separate from reality, to dream of the impossible. Children’s literature gives our youth the ability to use words in order to traverse to an unknown world that is not only timeless, but infinite with possibilities of what we can accomplish for the future. While I have never taken a children’s literature course before, I am anxious to learn this semester about how the novels that have shaped my life, have also shaped the lives of others and the literary community. The term “Golden Age” refers to a time in literature that is revered not only for its timelessness, but also for how it demonstrates a time of historic excellence that continues to shape society today.

While I have enjoyed many classics growing up, I find it difficult to narrow it down to one book as my favorite. I will say though, that children’s literature has helped me become the reader I am today and has opened my imagination to think outside of the box. I am extremely excited to learn more about these stories in order to continue the discovery of these the literary legacies.

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Hi, I’m Sandra.

Hi, everybody.  My name is Sandra M. Mejia.  I am a 5th year student majoring in Psychology and Japanese with a minor in English and a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate.  I am a New Yorker at the core since I moved to Florida during high school.  My hope is to go back to the north after finishing schooling here in Florida and teach high school English. Also, due to my interests and having studied abroad in Japan, I want stop in Asia to teach at some point in the near future, but we’ll see what happens.

from January 2011

Here is a picture of me.  Be warned: my hair color changes often.  🙂

Now onto why I am taking this class.  As I said before, I want to teach high school so I thought a course on Children’s Literature would be relevant.  Now that I’ve seen the list of books we’re reading, they are definitely quite relevant, and I think it’s interesting that we’ll be analyzing them.  I’m looking forward to reading everything on the list, especially the books I’ve never even heard of like The Water Babies and The Princess and the Goblin.  I am a little worried that we have spent too much time talking about whether or not it is valid to study children’s literature or not and why it matters, so I hope we don’t come back to this topic.  Why would we have the class if it wasn’t valid, you know?  I think it’s completely valid as a field of study, and I don’t see why studying the Harry Potter series would be any different from analyzing the content and meaning of Moby Dick.  If you look at literature studies in general, it’s basically a bunch of bookworms who love to read and study what they read.  You could almost say that about any field of study in higher education.  They are full of people who are really interested in a topic and just want to share it with the rest of the world, so why not?

As for what I think defines “Children’s Literature,” I’m not sure what else to say besides children’s literature is made up of the books written with children as the intended audience and any books children themselves actually pick up to read.  I’ve never thought about trying to define what kinds of books children’s literature is comprised of, and when I was child (baby age to about 8th grade), I was quite the bookworm and read all kinds of things.  I actually don’t really care which books are defined to be children’s literature because every child is different, and how quickly they develop and age don’t always match whatever is considered “normal” or “average” so I think whatever list that would be is irrelevant when considering what a child will actually read.  However, a list would be useful to help parents in choosing books for their children when they might not know what to pick up themselves.

Anyways, I’m excited to read all the books assigned for this class and to gain new perspectives on the ones I read when I was younger.  🙂

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Introduction

IMG_0483   Hello everybody,

My name is Joanna Klager and I am entering my final semester here at the University of Florida.  I double majored in English and Linguistics with a TESL focus.  I am in love with the outdoors, hiking, climbing, camping, canoeing, skiing, and sand volleyball are among some of my favorite activities. However, living in Florida can make hiking and climbing pretty difficult so in an effort to get out of the rock gym for a while I spent the summer in North Carolina teaching rock climbing to young girls at a summer camp.  Being at summer camp and not having the ability to get books whenever I wanted I began to borrow books from the campers. They all bring about ten with them to camp.  This had me reading books that I had not read in a very long time.  I also decided to jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon, great decision.

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I had never taken a Children’s Literature class before but with my renewed enjoyment in these sorts of books I decided to take a look in to taking one.  The syllabus looks absolutely lovely and I do not know where to start on what I am most excited about.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Goblin, and The Secret Garden are among the ones I am  happy we are reading.  To narrow it down a little further I am looking forward to Lewis Carroll’s works.  My boyfriends Grandfather is a huge fan of Carroll and is even a part of the Lewis Carroll society which gathers every year in England for a dinner and reading of The Hunting of the Snark.  I was lucky enough to spend a portion of the summer with him and he taught me a lot more about Carroll. I am very interested in being able to revisit these works and see what new things I can take away from the novellas.  Also, The Princess and the Goblin is of great excitement for me because not only do I love this book but I also always enjoyed the film version and am excited to see how my readings/viewings of these texts have evolved with my age.

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I think some of my favorite “Children’s Literature” reads would have to be A Little Princess, The Phantom Tollbooth, To Kill a Mockingbird and, Little House on the Prairie.  My favorite picture book is definitely Goodnight Moon and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

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The concept of “Children’s Literature”  to me entails reading anything that would spark the imagination  of child.  I also think it entails reading novels which are written with a difficulty appropriate for a child to read.  The range of Children’s Literature should in my opinion be vast and not limited to the novels that appear on  a school reading list.  The Golden Age emerged from Greek mythology and referred to the “Ages of Man.” According to the Greeks the Golden Age was the period of time where things were most prosperous and eventually would lead to the Iron Age, which is the period of decline.  I think the concept of the “Golden Age” for literature is a period of time when people believed things were a little better for novels. It was during this time that noteworthy fiction was being written.  Writers were creating utopian fantasies in their works as a means of preservation for childhood.  I do not believe that this means that the only noteworthy texts for children have already been written, I also do not think we should put limitations on who the readers of these texts should be.

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Introductory Blog: Catherine Woodcock

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p.s. that’s my dog, Scout!

My name is Catherine Woodcock, I’m a senior here at the University of Florida with a major in Political science and two minors in English and Mass Communication.  I am from Jacksonville, Florida (more specifically Ponte Vedra Beach if you know the area) but I spent half of my life living in England too as my dad and extensive family are British.

I have been an absolutely avid reader since early childhood and have always loved books, a quality that I think is what drew me towards taking this course.  The books I read and loved as a child heavily influence my idea of “children’s literature”. I think this genre, for me, is primarily composed of books that are colorfully written with imaginative stories, poems, and songs that entertain and stimulate the minds of children from ages two to ten.  When I hear the term “children’s literature” I can’t help but to think of that vibrant section of the bookstore with train tracks, carpets, and miniature chairs and tables filled with books of all shapes and sizes.  It conjures in my mind the books that my father read, I read, and the ones that I read to my young cousins today.  I believe that it is a cross-generational and encompassing genre that, to many varying people, reflects many differing personal inclusions and definitions highly subjected to everyone’s individual childhood experiences and memories.

Though it is difficult to choose my favorite childhood text I think I would probably have to choose The Twits by Roald Dahl.  I was devoted to anything Roald Dahl as a kid but this short novel I read countless times and truly adored.

I have never taken a children’s literature class before but I am so excited to start this course to relive and re-examine the enduring works we will be reading this semester.

The term “Golden Age” of children’s literature for me can be described, not fully but to a certain degree, by the word timeless.  They are the books that have done just that, stood the test of time and are, for the most part, staples of the general population’s childhoods across countries as well as generations.  The questions that this term inspires within me surround a growing curiosity I have concerning how we determine the qualifications that make a piece of literature timeless.

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