Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Constructions of childhood found in award -winning children's literature
by Wilson, Melissa B., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2009, 333; 3369209
Abstract (Summary)

This study explores the connections between childhood and children's literature. In this connection there is an inherent tension between writing and reading "real" childhood, as it is being lived by children now, and interacting with an adult-normative, adult-reconstructed childhood that may or may not have existed in the past. The purpose of this study was to address this tension by analyzing fifteen recently published award-winning children's novels, from the United States, The United Kingdom, and Australia, in order to ferret out how present-day childhood is constructed within this text set. Using a hybrid methodology called critical discourse analysis, buttressed by the frameworks of postmodern childhood studies and critical children's literature studies, the novels were analyzed in a hermeneutic, reader-response oriented approach in order to excavate themes that addressed childhood in the narratives. Findings are presented as a meta-plot, wherein the child protagonists leave a failed home, set out on a journey of knowledge and experience gaining a sense of agency, and, at the end of the novel, construct a new home replete with the child protagonists' personal meaning. This meta-plot includes instances of the child protagonist performing parrhesiatic acts (Foucault) as well as developing non-hierarchical relationships as conceptualized by an I/You relationship (Buber). Other findings include the construction of childhood as a time of "becoming" and a time of "is-ness," childhood as a time of resilience, and childhood as a time of difficult decisions. Conclusions of the analysis speak to the idea of the child serving as a Modern bringer of hope, who manages to create moral order from within an adult-created postmodern milieu. Implications relate to the fields of literacy education, replications of the study with an interpretative community of children, and continuing to define the burgeoning methodology of critical content analysis.

Index Words: postmodern childhood studies, critical children's literature studies, critical content analysis, postmodern childhood, Buber, parrhesia, and meta-plot.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Short, Kathy G.
Commitee: Iddings, Chris, Wyman, Lesiy, Yaden, David, Jr.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Language, Reading & Culture
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, Library science, Early childhood education
Keywords: Buber, Martin, Childhood, Children's literature, Critical children's literature studies, Meta-plot, Parrhesia, Postmodern child, Postmodern childhood studies
Publication Number: 3369209
ISBN: 978-1-109-31065-8
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