The Fantasy of Family

Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature and the Myth of the Domestic Ideal

By Elizabeth Thiel

© 2008 – Routledge

202 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415899376
pub: 2011-07-12
US Dollars$54.95
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Hardback: 9780415980357
pub: 2007-10-30
US Dollars$142.00
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About the Book

The myth of the Victorian family remains a pervasive influence within a contemporary Britain that perceives itself to be in social crisis. Nostalgic for a golden age of "Victorian values" in which visions of supportive, united families predominate, the common consciousness, exhorted by social and political discourse, continues to vaunt the "traditional, natural" family as the template by which all other family forms are gauged. Yet this fantasy of family, nurtured and augmented throughout the Victorian era, was essentially a construct that belied the realities of a nineteenth-century world in which orphanhood, fostering, and stepfamilies were endemic.

Focusing primarily on British children's texts written by women and drawing extensively on socio-historic material, The Fantasy of Family considers the paradoxes implicit to the perpetuation of the domestic ideal within the Victorian era and offers new perspectives on both nineteenth-century and contemporary society.

Reviews

'Each of Thiel's analyses are thought-provoking and incisive… The Fantasy of Family is an important and original contribution to the field, as lucidly written as it is admirably researched.' - Bjorn Sundmark, IRSCL

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER ONE

Redefining the Past

CHAPTER TWO

Snatched From "The Seed-plot" of Degeneracy: The "rescue" of the destitute child in tales of street arab life

CHAPTER THREE

Forever Cursed: Stepmothers, "otherness" and the reinscription of myth in transnormative family narratives

CHAPTER FOUR

"Uncles are one thing…[but] aunts are always nasty!": Relational failures and the discourse of gender bias in foster family stories

CHAPTER FIVE

Mother, Ally, Friend – or Foe? : The "dependable" female author as one of the family

CONCLUSION

Into the Future: The enduring potency of the nineteenth-century domestic ideal

APPENDIX

LIST OF WORKS CITED

NOTES

INDEX

About the Author

Elizabeth Thiel is Senior Lecturer in Children's Literature at Roehampton University. A former journalist, her research interests lie in both historical and contemporary texts for children. She has published on Victorian writer Brenda and forthcoming publications include work on degenerate ’innocents’ in nineteenth-century literature and on adaptations of Dickens for the child reader.

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:
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General
LIT004120
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
LIT009000
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature