David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Philosophia 35 (2):129-143 (2007)
Children’s literature was first published in the eighteenth century at a time when the philosophical ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on education and childhood were being discussed. Ironically, however, the first generation of children’s literature (by Maria Edgeworth et al) was incongruous with Rousseau’s ideas since the works were didactic, constraining and demanded passive acceptance from their readers. This instigated a deficit or reductionist model to represent childhood and children’s literature as simple and uncomplicated and led to children’s literature being overlooked and its contribution to philosophical discussions being undermined. Although Rousseau advocates freeing the child to develop, he does not feel that reading fiction promotes child development, which is a weakness in an otherwise strong argument for educational reform. Yet, rather ironically, the second generation of children’s writers, from Lewis Carroll onwards, more truly embraced Rousseau’s broader philosophical ideas on education and childhood than their predecessors, encouraging and freeing readers to imagine, reflect and actively engage in ontological enquiry. The emphasis had changed with the child being embraced in education and society as active participant rather than passive or disengaged recipient. Works deemed to be seminal to the canon of children’s literature such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Chronicles of Narnia challenge readers to work through conflicts many of which can be identified retrospectively as exhibiting postmodern characteristics. By exploring moral and spiritual dilemmas in their writing, Carroll, Barrie and Lewis’s works can be regarded as contributing to discussions on theodical postmodernism. The successes of The Lord of the Rings and Narnia films suggest that there is an interest in exploring moral dilemmas, fulfilling a need (perhaps for tolerance and understanding) in society at large. Children’s literature has an almost divine power to restore, to repair and to heal, all characteristics of theodical postmodernism but differing from the more widely held conception of postmodernism which pulls apart, exacerbates and exposes. Children’s literature therefore offers a healthy and constructive approach to working through moral dilemmas. In their deconstruction of childhood, these authors have brought children’s literature closer to aspects of enquiry traditionally found in the domain of adult mainstream literature. As the boundaries between childhood and adulthood become more fluid, less certain, debate is centring around whether the canon of children’s literature itself has become redundant or meaningless since there are no longer any restrictions on which subjects can be treated in children’s literature. Despite the fact that children’s literature clearly engages with difficult issues, it continues to be left out of the critical equation, not given serious attention, disregarded as simplistic and ignored in contemporary philosophical discussions concerning morality, postmodernism and the future of childhood. With children’s literature coming closer to mainstream literature, and exhibiting prominent features of postmodernism, however, it is only a matter of time before philosophical discussions actively engage with children’s literature and recognise its contribution to the resolution and reconciliation of ontological dilemmas. When this occurs, philosophy and children’s literature will re-engage, enriching contemporary investigations of existence, ethics and knowledge and fruitfully developing thought in these areas. This paper aims to contribute to this process.
|Keywords||Children’s literature Childhood Narnia C.S. Lewis J.M. Barrie Peter Pan J.K. Rowling Harry Potter Rousseau Theodical Postmodernism Development|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel, Richard Clay, Macmillan & Co ) & Dalziel Brothers ), Through the Looking Glass.
Gareth B. Matthews (1980). Philosophy and the Young Child. Harvard University Press.
Gregory Bassham & Jerry L. Walls (eds.) (2005). The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy. Open Court.
Bernadette Baker (2001). (Ap)Pointing the Canon Rousseau's Emile, Visions of the State, and Education. Educational Theory 51 (1):1-43.
David Baggett, Shawn E. Klein & William Irwin (eds.) (2004). Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts. Chicago: Open Court.
Citations of this work BETA
Monique Wonderly (2009). Children's Film as an Instrument of Moral Education. Journal of Moral Education 38 (1):1-15.
Similar books and articles
Carole R. Beal, Andrew Garrod, Kate Ruben, Terri L. Stewart & Dawn J. Dekle (1997). Children's Moral Orientation: Does the Gender of Dilemma Character Make a Difference? Journal of Moral Education 26 (1):45-58.
Paul Arnold (1993). The Sociomoral Reasoning and Behaviour of Deaf Children. Journal of Moral Education 22 (2):157-166.
Anthony Krupp (2009). Reason's Children: Childhood in Early Modern Philosophy. Bucknell University Press.
Eva M. Simms (2010). Questioning the Value of Literacy: A Phenomenology of Speaking and Reading in Children. In K. Coats (ed.), Handbook of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Routledge
Lois C. Wolf (1975). Children's Literature and the Development of Empathy in Young Children. Journal of Moral Education 5 (1):45-49.
Viktor Johansson (2011). 'In Charge of the Truffula Seeds': On Children's Literature, Rationality and Children's Voices in Philosophy. Journal of Philosophy of Education 45 (2):359-377.
Elizabeth Baird Saenger (2000). Exploring Ethics Through Children's Literature. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 14 (1):35-41.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads27 ( #149,385 of 1,911,506 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #457,144 of 1,911,506 )
How can I increase my downloads?