Ethics and Children's Literature: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Ethics and Children's Literature

1st Edition

By Claudia Mills


278 pages

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Hardback: 9781472440723
pub: 2016-03-18
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315580319
pub: 2016-05-13
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Exploring the ethical questions posed by, in, and about children’s literature, this collection examines the way texts intended for children raise questions of value, depict the moral development of their characters, and call into attention shared moral presuppositions. The essays in Part I look at various past attempts at conveying moral messages to children and interrogate their underlying assumptions. What visions of childhood were conveyed by explicit attempts to cultivate specific virtues in children? What unstated cultural assumptions were expressed by growing resistance to didacticism? How should we prepare children to respond to racism in their books and in their society? Part II takes up the ethical orientations of various classic and contemporary texts, including 'prosaic ethics' in the Hundred Acre Wood, moral discernment in Narnia, ethical recognition in the distant worlds traversed by L’Engle, and virtuous transgression in recent Anglo-American children’s literature and in the emerging children’s literature of 1960s Taiwan. Part III’s essays engage in ethical criticism of arguably problematic messages about our relationship to nonhuman animals, about war, and about prejudice. The final section considers how we respond to children’s literature with ethically focused essays exploring a range of ways in which child readers and adult authorities react to children’s literature. Even as children’s literature has evolved in opposition to its origins in didactic Sunday school tracts and moralizing fables, authors, parents, librarians, and scholars remain sensitive to the values conveyed to children through the texts they choose to share with them.


'Keenly analytical and critically astute, Ethics and Children’s Literature is a compelling exploration of the ethical at work in literature for the young. Each of the essays contributes a unique voice to the volume; the sensitively edited chapters blend to become a chorus resonant with the ways that ethics and children’s literature inflect one another.' Roberta Seelinger Trites, Illinois State University, USA, author of Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature and Literary Conceptualizations of Growth 'The volume successfully brings together a variety of approaches to studying ethics in children's literature. It conveys an important message that the quite overt manipulation to which children were subject in the past, e.g. in the segregation era, has been replaced by more subtle snares to be disentangled by critical reading.' International Research in Children's Literature '… a collection that is full of interesting perspectives … [I] recommend this volume for the freshness of its approach to a subject that has received rather less attention than it deserves in the field of children's literature criticism.' Network

Table of Contents


Part I The Dilemma of Didacticism: Attempts to Shape Children as Moral Beings

1 Transmitting Ethics through Books of Golden Deeds for Children Claudia Nelson

2 Sermonizing in New York: The Children's Magazines of Mary Mapes Dodge and Jose Marti Emma Adelaida Otheguy

3 Talking to Children about Race: Children's Literature in a Segregated Era, 1930-1945 Moira Hinderer

Part II Ethical Themes in Classic and Contemporary Texts

4 Discernment and the Moral Life in Prince Caspian and the Later Narnia Chronicles Emanuelle Burton

5 Making a Difference: Ethical Recognition through Otherness in Madelein L'Engle's Fiction Mary Jeanette Moran

6 A Prosaics of the Hundred Acre Wood: Ethics in A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner Niall Nance-Carroll

7 Virtuous Transgressors, Not Moral Saints: Protagonists in Contemporary Children's Literature Jani L. Barker

8 Model Children, Little Rebels, and Moral Transgressors: Virtuous Childhood Images in Taiwanese Juvenile Fiction in the 1960s Andrea Mei-Ying Wu

Part III Ethical Criticism of Children's Literature

9 The Rights and Wrongs of Anthropomorphism in Picture Books Lisa Rowe Fraustino

10 Lewis, Tolkien, and the Ethics of Imaginary Wars Suzanne Rahn

11 Heeding Rousseau's Advice: Some Ethical Reservations about Addressing Prejudice through Children's Literature Claudia Mills

Part IV Ethical Responses to Children's Literature: Identification, Recognition, Adaptation, Conversation

12 The Ethics of Reading Narrative Voice: An Anti-Bakhtinian View Leona W. Fisher

13 Prizing Social Justice: The Jane Addams Children's Book Award Ramona Caponegro

14 Katniss Everdeen's Emerging Moral Consciousness in The Hunger Games Martha Rainbolt

15 Using Children's Literature as a Spark for Ethical Discussion: Stories that Deal with Death Sara Goering

About the Author

Claudia Mills is Associate Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. She is the author of many books for children, most recently Zero Tolerance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

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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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 20th Century