Enterprising Youth

Social Values and Acculturation in Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Literature

Edited by Monika Elbert

© 2008 – Routledge

312 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415876674
pub: 2009-11-23
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415961509
pub: 2008-04-15
US Dollars$164.00

About the Book

"Recommended" by Choice

Enterprising Youth examines the agenda behind the shaping of nineteenth-century children’s perceptions and world views and the transmission of civic duties and social values to children by adults. The essays in this book reveal the contradictions involved in the perceptions of children as active or passive, as representatives of a new order, or as receptacles of the transmitted values of their parents. The question, then, is whether the business of telling children's stories becomes an adult enterprise of conservative indoctrination, or whether children are enterprising enough to read what many of the contributors to this volume see as the subversive potential of these texts. This collection of literary and historical criticism of nineteenth-century American children’s literature draws upon recent assessments of canon formations, gender studies, and cultural studies to show how concepts of public/private, male/female, and domestic/foreign are collapsed to reveal a picture of American childhood and life that is expansive and constrictive at the same time.


"…the essays are well-researched and well-written…the volume includes 18 black-and-white period illustrations and a thorough bibliography." -- E.R. Baer, Choice

"Readers will learn more about old favorites such as Stowe, Alcott, and Twain, discover new areas for research, and develop new perspectives on nineteenth-century American children's literature…this is an important contribution to American children's literature scholarship, one that should be in every university library. The authors and the editor are to be commended for their work; I look forward to seeing how their scholarship shapes and inspires additional research on both nineteenth- and twentieth-century American children's literature." --Anne K. Phillips, Children’s Literature

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Foreword

List of Figures


Monika Elbert

1. Civic Duties and Moral Pitfalls

"A Just, A Useful Part": Lydia Huntley Sigourney and Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Contributions to The Juvenile Miscellany and The Youth’s Companion

Lorinda B. Cohoon

Charitable (Mis)givings and the Aesthetics of Poverty in Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Stories

Monika Elbert

"Hints Dropped Here and There": Constructing Exclusion in St. Nicholas, Volume I

Melissa Fowler and Janet Gray

"One extra little girl": Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s Orphans

Roxanne Harde

2. Politicizing Children: "Normalization" and the Place of the Marginalized Child

"A is an Abolitionist": The Anti-Slavery Alphabet and the Politics of Literacy

Martha Sledge

Overcoming Racism in Jacob Abbott’s Stories of Rainbow and Lucky and in Antebellum America

Jeannette Barnes Lessels and Eric Sterling

"I am your slave for love": Race, Sentimentality, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Fiction for Children

Lesley Ginsberg

Shut-ins, Shut-outs, and Spofford’s Other Children: The Hester Stanley Stories

Rita Bode

3. Sentimental and Realistic Constructs of Childhood

Robinson Crusoe and the Shaping of Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century America

Shawn Thomson

"the cleverest children’s book written here": Elizabeth Stoddard’s Lolly Dinks’s Doings and the Subversion of Social Conventions

Maria Holmgren Troy

A Sentimental Childhood: The Unlikely Memoirs of Realist-Era Writers

Melanie Dawson

The Cultural Work of Kate Douglas Wiggin: Cultivating the Child’s Garden

Anne Lundin

4. Education and Shifting Paradigms of the Child’s Mind

"Heroes of the Laboratory and the Workshop": Invention and Technology in Books for Children, 1850-1990

Eric S. Hintz

Natural History for Children and the Agassiz Association

J.D. Stahl

Good Masters: Child-Animal Relationships in the Writings of Mark Twain and G. Stanley Hall

Joan Menefee

Child Consciousness in the American Novel: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), What Maisie Knew (1897), and the Birth of Child Psychology

Holly Blackford




About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

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.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature