The Myth of Persephone in Girls' Fantasy Literature: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Myth of Persephone in Girls' Fantasy Literature

1st Edition

By Holly Blackford


260 pages

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In this book, Blackford historicizes the appeal of the Persephone myth in the nineteenth century and traces figurations of Persephone, Demeter, and Hades throughout girls’ literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She illuminates developmental patterns and anxieties in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker and Mouse King, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The story of the young goddess’s separation from her mother and abduction into the underworld is, at root, an expression of ambivalence about female development, expressed in the various Neverlands through which female protagonists cycle and negotiate a partial return to earth. The myth conveys the role of female development in the perpetuation and renewal of humankind, coordinating natural and cultural orders through a hieros gamos (fertility coupling) rite. Meanwhile, popular novels such as Twilight and Coraline are paradoxically fresh because they recycle goddesses from myths as old as the seasons. With this book, Blackford offers a consideration of how literature for the young squares with broader canons, how classics flexibly and uniquely speak through novels that enjoy broad appeal, and how female traditions are embedded in novels by both men and women.


"Blackford's far-reaching book is required reading for those interested in young-adult literature and/or gender studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended." --V. A. Murrenus Pilmaier, University of Wisconsin Sheboygan, CHOICE

Table of Contents

Contents Introduction: Reaching for the Narcissus: Byronic Boys, Toys, and the Plight of Persephone 1: Unearthing the Child Underworld: The History of Persephone and Developmental Psychology 2: Toying with Persephone: Herr Drosselmeier and Marie in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker and Mouse King (1816) 3: Jo’s Sensational Boy and the Gift of Amy’s Soul in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868-1869) 4: Lost Girls, Underworld Queens in J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (1911) and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) 5: Eleusinian Mysteries in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911) 6: The Byronic Woman: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952) 7: The Riddle of Féminine Écriture in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998) 8: Divorce and Other Mothers: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005) and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (2002)

About the Author

Holly Blackford (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley), is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, Camden, where she teaches children’s and American literature. Her recent books include Out of this World: Why Literature Matters to Girls, 100 Years of Anne with an "e": The Centennial Study of Anne of Green Gables (ed.), and Mockingbird Passing: Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Science Fiction & Fantasy
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Folklore & Mythology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies