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Culture and identity in Scottish children's fiction

Farrell, Maureen Anne (2009) Culture and identity in Scottish children's fiction. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

British Children’s Literature has a long and distinguished history. In fact it could be argued that in the late seventeenth and increasingly in the eighteenth century, Britain took the lead in developing a new kind of literature especially designed for children. The Puritans were the first to recognise the potential for material specifically targeted at children as a means of reforming the personal piety of all individuals, including children. As a result, educational, instructional and religious books for children began to appear followed later by books retelling myths, legends and oral tales and later again books intended to entertain and engage children at all stages of their development. Included as part of British Children’s Literature was the work of Scottish authors. Indeed writers such as Sir Walter Scott, George MacDonald and J.M Barrie produced works that have since become Children’s Literature classics and they themselves had significant influence on diverse children’s authors including writers such as Lewis Carroll and C.S.Lewis. Though the work of Scottish authors was included in British Children’s Literature, it was not recognised specifically for its distinctively Scottish elements. In fact, increasingly from the nineteenth century, it began to be labelled as ‘English’ Children’s Literature even though it meant ‘British’. Scotland had been a separate nation until the Act of Union in 1707. After that, even as a ‘stateless nation’, Scotland retained its own education system, its own legal system and its own national church. Scottish Literature continued to flourish during this period making use of English and Scots language, as well as Gaelic, to produce an illustrious and influential literature of world renown. As Roderick Watson has observed, “the main ‘state’ left to a ‘stateless nation’ may well be its state of mind, and in that territory it is literature that maps the land.” (Watson, 1995: xxxi) Since devolution in 1997, Scotland’s literature sector has undergone an unprecedented period of rapid, sustained and dramatic expansion, a process paralleled by the growing profile of Scottish writers internationally. During the same period Scottish Children’s Literature and Scottish children’s writers have not received the same attention, though their progress has been just as significant. In the year 2000 the Modern Language Association of America recognised Scottish Literature as a national literature, and presumably Scottish Children’s Literature is included as part of that, but it was not specifically highlighted. Even up until 2006, Scottish Children’s Literature was not generally included or even mentioned in Scottish Literature anthologies or histories of Scottish Literature. When in January 2006 the Scottish Executive unveiled Scotland’s Culture, its new cultural policy, it gave Scottish Literature a prominent place. At the same time this document also acknowledged the importance of education in giving access to and highlighting Scotland’s literary heritage. It became all the more important then to recognise the existence of a corpus of work that is recognisable as Scottish Children’s Literature existing separately from but complementary to English Children’s literature and which could be used in schools by teachers and read by children in order to explore and interrogate their own cultural history and identity. This thesis seeks to investigate whether a distinctive Scottish Children’s Literature exists and, if so, to identify those aspects that make it distinctive. Further, if Scottish Children’s Literature exists, how does it become a repository for the formation of culture, identity and nationhood and how does this impact on young Scottish readers? In order to carry out this investigation the study adopts an integrated, humanistic and multi-dimensional approach towards Scottish Children’s fiction. It draws selectively and discursively on theories of reading, reader response and close reading skills for heuristic purposes; that is, on methods that further the overall hermeneutical task of enlarging understanding of the phenomenon, though no particular theoretical approach to analysis has been privileged over another. It draws on a range of overarching theoretical perspectives that work effectively in illuminating the characteristics of particular texts with and for readers. As such, the study does not pretend to provide a specific theoretical basis for the reading of Scottish Children’s Fiction. The approach adopted requires an immersion in the narratives, making unfamiliar texts familiar in order to do the work of projecting a distinctive Scottish perspective. Given that this study is among the first of its kind, it provides a base-line for others to apply specific theoretical filters to Scottish Children’s Literature for further study. Using what cultural typology and the semiotics of culture would recognise as a retrospective approach, this study intends to identify children’s texts that are recognisably Scottish and which may be considered to form a corpus of work which can be celebrated as a central part of Scottish Children’s Literature. WATSON, R. (1995) The Poetry of Scotland, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Sections of this thesis have appeared in a number of publications. Part of Chapter 3 of the thesis appeared in The Lost Boys and Girls of Scottish Children’s Fiction, p198-207, BROWN, I. MANNING, S. & PITTOCK, M. (Eds.) (2006) The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature Modern Transformations: New Identities (from 1918), Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press. www.euppublishing.com and Treasured Islands: the literary uses of the island setting in some Scottish Children’s Books, p118-126 in THOMPSON, M. S. & KEENAN, C. (Eds.) (2006) Treasure Islands Studies in Children's Literature, Dublin, Four Courts Press. Part of Chapter 4 concerning the Jacobite novels appeared in ‘To see oursels as others see us’: the imaging of children in a selection of Scottish children’s historical fiction. In The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies 4 (2): pp 37-53
Keywords: Scottish, children's fiction, culture, identity
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Davis, Prof. Robert and Riach, Prof. Alan
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr Maureen Farrell
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-902
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:27
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/902

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