Children’s Play in Literature: Investigating the Strengths and the Subversions of the Playing Child, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Children’s Play in Literature

Investigating the Strengths and the Subversions of the Playing Child, 1st Edition

Edited by Joyce E. Kelley


272 pages

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Hardback: 9781138571426
pub: 2018-07-03
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203702833
pub: 2018-07-04
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While we owe much to twentieth and twenty-first century researchers’ careful studies of children’s linguistic and dramatic play, authors of literature, especially children’s literature, have matched and even anticipated these researchers in revealing play’s power—authors well aware of the way children use play to experiment with their position in the world. This volume explores the work of authors of literature as well as film, both those who write for children and those who use children as their central characters, who explore the empowering and subversive potentials of children at play. Play gives children imaginative agency over limited lives and allows for experimentation with established social roles; play’s disruptive potential also may prove dangerous not only for children but for the society that restricts them.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


List of Figures




Caution—Children at Play: Investigations of Children’s Play in Theory and Literature (Joyce E. Kelley)

1 "Fits of Vulgar Joy": Spontaneous Play in Book 1 of Wordworth’s The Prelude (1805) (Alison W. Powell)

2 Playing at Work and Working at Play in Mark Twain’s Writings (Alan Gribben and Sarah Fredericks)

3 "Mammy, can’t you tell us sump’n’ to play?": Children’s Play as the Locus for Imaginative Imitation and Cultural Exchange in the Plantation Novels of Louise Clarke Pyrnelle (Joyce E. Kelley)

4 Words with Kids at Play: Sculpting Truth and Forging Childhood Friendship in Henry James’s What Maisie Knew and Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris (Jericho Williams)

5 Idylls of Play: L. M. Montgomery’s Child-Worlds (Caroline E. Jones)

6 Katherine Mansfield’s Children at Play (Janka Kascakova)

7 The Buttons of the World are Round: Gertrude Stein’s Toys (Michael Opest)

8 Playing Pioneer: Childhood, Artistry, and Play in the Little House Series (Anna Lockhart)

9 "I’m ready to play now, you guys!": J. D. Salinger, Steven Spielberg, and the Healing Power of Children’s Play (Andy Clinton)

10 Free Play and the Prescriptive Endgames of Orson Scott Card (Tim Bryant)

11 Children’s Play and Mental Illness in Children’s Literature and Film (Ian Wojcik-Andrews)

12 "The trampoline of letters and words": Juvenile Linguistic Play in the Memoirs of Binyavanga Wainaina and Shailja Patel (Dorothy Wolfe Giannakouros)

Notes on Contributors


About the Editor

Joyce E. Kelley received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery where she received a distinguished teaching award in 2013. She has published articles in The Journal of Narrative Theory, Children’s Literature, Victorians, The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts, and Politics, Identity, Mobility in Travel Writing. Her monograph Excursions into Modernism: Women Writers, Travel, and the Body appeared from Ashgate in 2015.

About the Series

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

This series recognizes and supports innovative work on the child and on literature for children and adolescents that informs teaching and engages with current and emerging debates in the field. Proposals are welcome for interdisciplinary and comparative studies by humanities scholars working in a variety of fields, including literature; book history, periodicals history, and print culture and the sociology of texts; theater, film, musicology, and performance studies; history, including the history of education; gender studies; art history and visual culture; cultural studies; and religion.

Topics might include, among other possibilities, how concepts and representations of the child have changed in response to adult concerns; postcolonial and transnational perspectives; "domestic imperialism" and the acculturation of the young within and across class and ethnic lines; the commercialization of childhood and children's bodies; views of young people as consumers and/or originators of culture; the child and religious discourse; children's and adolescents' self-representations; and adults' recollections of childhood.

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