A Space To Be Herself : Locating Girlhood In Children’s Literature


If I believe in anything, I believe in making my research publicly accessible when and where I can. Obviously I believe in a lot of things, but I think that’s the one that underpins everything. Share your work. It’s terrifying, but I think, vital.

So, on that note, here’s a brief note to say that my MPhil thesis is officially on public view from today. It’s called A Space To Be Herself : Locating Girlhood In Children’s Literature and is available to download here. In it, I write about Angela Brazil, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Michelle Magorian, Enid Blyton, Robin Stevens, and David Almond. Here’s the abstract.

This thesis argues that the representation of both the ‘girl’ and ‘girlhood’ within children’s literature can be best understood through a reading of space and place. The opening chapter considers the Golden Age of children’s literature, and investigates The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and four of Angela Brazil’s most typical school stories: The Fortunes of Philippa, For the Sake of the School, The Mystery of the Moated Grange and The School in the Forest. It is argued that these stories represent an attempt to mediate between an unorthodox idea of girlhood and an Arcadian stereotype whilst effectively rendering neither. The second chapter considers the mid-twentieth century and argues for a tentative aesthetic of liberation, substantiated through analyses of the St Clare’s and Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton, and A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian. Chapter three shifts towards the contemporary period of children’s literature with analyses of Murder is Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens, and My Name is Mina by David Almond, and argues that the contemporary notion of girlhood is characterised by the apparently contradictory idea of permitted transgression. It is concluded that the nature of girlhood within children’s literature faces an imminent crisis; whether to consolidate the perspective of the child to the exclusion of the adult, or to pursue an ever greater aetonormative perspective. The findings of this thesis also come to question the role of the golden age within children’s literature and suggests that rather than reading a golden age as temporally definite, it can be, instead, recognised thematically.

And here’s the link again:
http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/20241/

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