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Bright shoots of everlastingness : children's fiction as secular scripture


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Buckland, Corinne(Corrine Anitra) 2002 , 'Bright shoots of everlastingness : children's fiction as secular scripture', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines adult interest in twentieth-century children's fiction within the
context of adult culture and argues that it performs a religious function. A number
of critical commentators have described the twentieth century as a period of cultural
"failure," largely because of the destructive aspects of postmodernism and the
diminishing of values. Children's fiction, however, has remained relatively resistant
to these trends. The values of religion were once expressed in literature (and thence
in liberal humanism), but they have now been relegated to literature for children.
This is because childhood, especially its embodiment of innocence, remains a
"sacred space" in our culture (though even this is under threat). The myths of Eden
and the neo-Platonic tradition are particularly relevant to children's literature and
recur in the novels themselves, in critical writing about them, and in writing about
childhood. The sacred notion of childhood taps into the backwards journey to an
eternal pre-birth existence that Henry Vaughan yearns for in "The Retreate," and
this poem is a focus for the whole discussion.
The first half of the thesis explores children's literature as a form and as a genre. The
implied reader, in particular the notion of the dual address that speaks to children
and adults simultaneously, allows for a depth and significance similar to that of
scripture, and of parable in particular. It is especially significant that children's
literature preserves the romance form that Northrop Frye has designated "the
secular scripture." The second part of the thesis focuses on the idealisation of
experience that is such a strong characteristic of children's books. This is evident in
the expression of wonder, the sublime and beauty, all aspects of the numinous and
thus related to spiritual experience. Idealisation is also expressed in ideals of right
conduct and moral goodness: the Good, that Iris Murdoch calls "the sovereign
virtue." This discussion is indebted to Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy, and his
insight that when the numinous is schematised within goodness, it evokes an
experience of the holy. Children's fiction is thus uniquely situated to successfully
embody religious values and religious experience, "bright shoots of
everlastingness," and is very frequently a form of secular scripture.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Buckland, Corinne(Corrine Anitra)
Keywords: Children's literature, Values in literature
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2002 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 2002. Includes bibliographical references

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