Children’s Literature and
Criticism in the 1980s
Chia-yen Ku 古佳艷
National Taiwan University
1. “Taking Political Stock: New Theoretical and
Critical Approaches to Anglo-American
Children’s Literature in the 1980s.”
by Jack Zipes. The Lion and the Unicorn 14
2. “Of Elephants and Ducks.” The Empire’s Old
Clothes. By Ariel Dorfman. New York:
Retired professor of German at the
Taking Political Stock
• 1970s: journals, research societies,
improvement of quality in research of
• Ideological shift in the criticism of
• “radical” efforts of critics of the 1980s
Polarization & Intense Debate
• Neil Postman, The Disappearance
of Childhood (1982)
• Marie Winn, Children without Childhood
Fred Inglis, The Promise of Happiness:
Value and Meaning in Children’s Fiction
• How to make value judgment about children’s
• Follower of the enlightened critics of the late 18th century?
Not exactly: Inglis accepts fantasy and is against
Ariel Dorfman, The Empire’s Old
-Ariel Dorfman, How to read Donald
Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the
Disney Comic (1975)
-in the manner of Roland Barthes: to expose the myths by
which we govern our lives as socially constructed fictions
that have strong ideological ramifications
-mass media “leaves hardly any space for interpretation
by the audience” (179).
Manipulation of the Child
• Geoffrey Summerfield, Fantasy and
• Mary V. Jackson, Engines of Instruction,
Mischief, and Magic (1989).
Representation of the Child
• Juliet Dusinberre, Alice to the Lighthouse
• New aesthetics and attitude
• Carroll’s Alice books:
introduces innovative manner
of addressing children
radical experiments of
Virginia Woolf’s novels
“N/ever Written for Children”
• Jacqueline Rose, The Case of Peter Pan
• Manipulation of the child as reader
• Problematic relationship between adult
• Alison Lurie, Don’t Tell the Grown-ups
• Children’s literature of the 20th
century endeavored to undermine
the accepted social and aesthetic
standards of their day
Issue neglected in criticism of the 1980s
• Reception and distribution
• Mass media and children’s literature
• Empirical studies
“Of Elephants and Ducks”
• Ariel Dorfman: Chilean-American novelist,
playwright, essayist, and human rights
activist; son of Argentine economist Adolfo
• Babar books & TV cartoon series
From Elephants to Ducks
• De Brunhoff’s Babar
– Babar’s history = the dominant countries’
– Disappearance of violence, slavery,
plundering, and HUNTER
• Disney’s Donald Duck
– Within the limits of paternal authority
– Constant innocentization of all aspects of life
Bacon, Betty. How Much Truth Do We Tell the Children? The Politics of Children’s
Literature. Minneapolis: MEP Publications, 1988.
Postman, Neil. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Delacorte, 1982.
Winn, Marie. Children without Childhood. New York: Pantheon, 1983.
Dorfman, Ariel and Armand Mattelart. How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in
the Disney Comic. London: International General, 1975.
---. The Empire’s Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes
Do to Our Minds. New York: Pantheon, 1983.
Dusinberre, Juliet. Alice to the Lighthouse: Children’s Literature and Radical Experiments
in Art. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.
Inglis, Fred. The Promise of Happiness: Value and Meaning in Children’s Fiction.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.
Jackson, Mary V. Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children’s Literature in
England from Its Beginnings to 1839. Lincoln: University of Nebraska P, 1989.
Lurie, Alison. Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children’s Literature. Boston: Little,
Summerfield, Geoffrey. Fantasy and Reason: Children’s Literature in the Eighteenth
Century. London: Methuen, 1984.