Book

Narratives of Child Neglect in Romantic and Victorian Culture

Authors:

Abstract

Contextualizing the topos of the neglected child within a variety of discourses, this book challenges the assumption that the early nineteenth century witnessed a clear transition from a Puritan to a liberating approach to children and demonstrates that oppressive assumptions survive in major texts considered part of the Romantic cult of childhood.
Thesis
There exists a multitude of adaptations of Charles Dickens’s novels for children and young adults, but thus far this body of work has been paid little critical attention. This thesis proposes to change that by analysing a sample of these texts to explore what is ‘Dickensian’ about adaptations of Dickens’s novels for children and young adults. I argue that Dickens’s appeal to adaptors targeting young audiences lies in the specificities of his writing, that is, elements which are often referred to as ‘Dickensian’. This project draws on children’s literature criticism, adaptation theory, and Dickens scholarship. The first part, comprising Staves One and Two, will address the question of why Dickens’s oeuvre has been so extensively adapted for young readers. Stave One argues that the categorisation of Dickens’s novels as classics contributes to his popularity with adaptors who are creating texts for young audiences. Stave Two builds on the first chapter in its attempt to determine which elements of Dickens’s writing make his work particularly suitable for adaptation for children and young adults, and thus make Dickens’s novels more popular with adaptors than those of his contemporaries. These characteristics are ones he shares with much of children’s literature, which is why his works prove such apt sources for young audiences. Stave Two focuses specifically on Dickens’s use of language, his characterisation, and his representation of children and childhood. The second section (Staves Three through Five) analyses adaptations of Dickens’s novels to determine the ways in which they engage with the distinctive elements of Dickens’s writing as identified in Stave Two. Stave Three focuses on how adaptations in a variety of media and intended for audiences of different ages engage with Dickens’s use of language. Stave Four examines the ways in which adaptations of Dickens’s novels represent the child characters and the child’s perspective which he explores in his own writing. I argue that the child’s perspective, which is at the centre of Dickens’s prose, is what results in the similarities between his novels and much of children’s literature (such as his use of language, as discussed in Stave Three) and consequently it is what leads to his enduring popularity with adaptors targeting young audiences. Stave Five addresses the (ir)relevance of Dickens’s representation of women for modern audiences, and the ways in which adaptations engage with Dickens’s depiction of stories as transformative, especially with regards to changing stereotypical gender roles. This thesis finds that what is most Dickensian about adaptations of Dickens for young audiences are a playful use of language, the privileging of the child’s perspective – which points towards a kinship between childhood and adulthood – and the emphasis placed on the transformative power of stories.
Thesis
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This thesis examines how William Blake represents God and Christianity in Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and to what extent this representation parallels Blake’s religious outlook. First, Blake’s religious outlook as demonstrably recorded in his biographies and in the referential works written on his literary works, is handled to better understand his religious presentation in Songs of Innocence and of Experience. How he regards God and interprets Christianity is clearly depicted in the study. Then, 15 selected poems that are relevant to each other in terms of religion are analysed in detail. The selected poems have been analysed thematically. The data obtained as a result of the analyses proves that Blake does not show a consistent representation of God and Christianity in Songs of Innocence and of Experience. More clearly, the concepts of God and Christianity are represented through different means in different poems. Therefore, this representation somehow contrasts with Blake’s own religious outlook. In other words, his understanding of God and Christianity is presented in a controversial way in some of the analysed poems in this thesis.
Chapter
Dickens invests his surfaces with meaning, for they are indicative of what lies underneath. This chapter argues that this is particularly obvious in his use of dirt. What might be regarded as realist embellishment of Victorian London also carries a highly symbolic meaning. Dickens covers his characters in dirt to express a covert fear of the instability of social class. Dirt in Dickens is not merely superficial decoration, but rather reveals something deeply troubling about Victorian class ideology. This is particularly apparent in his child characters. This chapter tries to show that Dickens covers fictional children in dirt in order to stress their social exclusion and segregation. Their dirty surfaces are indicative of their uncertain station in Victorian society.
Article
This article intends to incorporate imitation, the creative emulation of existing texts, into the framework of André Lefevere’s rewriting theory. Building on past translation theories, recent scholarship in translation studies, and the findings of related academic fields, it distinguishes two different meanings of the term imitation: the free method of translation commonly used in translation studies and the creative emulation of earlier models fruitfully explored in the study of hypertextuality and poetic influence. It argues that imitation in the second sense, offering illuminating insights into textual relations and literary influence, deserves to be conceived as a distinctive type of rewriting, since Lefevere habitually uses the word without purging it of the second meaning and readily acknowledges the possibility of new rewriting forms. By analyzing the celebrated Chinese intellectual Zhou Zuoren’s (1885–1967) appropriation of the English poet William Blake’s (1757–1827) poems on children in the May Fourth era (1915–1927), this essay demonstrates that imitation can not only exhibit the distinguishing features of Lefevere’s rewriting, but also provide fresh insights into translation studies and beyond through its assistance in identifying hitherto unknown borrowings from foreign literature.
Chapter
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In the previous chapter I suggested that certain queer readings of the nineteenth-century child, although offering path-breaking analyses of its apparent ‘naturalness’, also have a stake in maintaining access to apparently non-textual identities and conditions, and are often unable to read their own demands. This final chapter will turn to historicising accounts of the child in nineteenth-century literature, to be read in works such as Laura Berry’s The Child, The State and the Victorian Novel (as discussed in an earlier chapter), Hugh Cunningham’s Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, George Rousseau’s edited Children and Sexuality: From the Greeks to The Great War and Galia Benziman’s Narratives of Child Neglect in Romantic and Victorian Culture.1 In each I read a further, significant, late-twentieth century critique of universalising notions of childhood, although, perhaps, one less concerned with rigorously and self-consciously maintaining a ‘perverse […] refusal of every substantialization of identity’ than those addressed in Chapter 5. It is my suggestion, however, that they share with the queer accounts an investment in a non-discursive ‘real’ that works to limit the disruption that might be caused by the child’s return.
Article
Full-text available
This chapter has four sections: 1. General; 2. The Novel; 3. Poetry; 4. Drama. Section 1 is by Peter Newbon; section 2 is by Eliza O’Brien; section 3 is by David Stewart and Christopher Donaldson; section 4 is by Chrisy Dennis. Due to the illness of a contributor, the ‘Prose’ section for 2012 will be included with material from 2013.