British Hymn Books for Children, 1800-1900: Re-Tuning the History of Childhood (Hardback) book cover

British Hymn Books for Children, 1800-1900

Re-Tuning the History of Childhood

By Alisa Clapp-Itnyre


308 pages

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Hardback: 9781409454304
pub: 2015-12-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315562971
pub: 2016-09-17
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Examining nineteenth-century British hymns for children, Alisa Clapp-Itnyre argues that the unique qualities of children's hymnody created a space for children's empowerment. Unlike other literature of the era, hymn books were often compilations of many writers' hymns, presenting the discerning child with a multitude of perspectives on religion and childhood. In addition, the agency afforded children as singers meant that they were actively engaged with the text, music, and pictures of their hymnals. Clapp-Itnyre charts the history of children’s hymn-book publications from early to late nineteenth century, considering major denominational movements, the importance of musical tonality as it affected the popularity of hymns to both adults and children, and children’s reformation of adult society provided by such genres as missionary and temperance hymns. While hymn books appear to distinguish 'the child' from 'the adult', intricate issues of theology and poetry - typically kept within the domain of adulthood - were purposely conveyed to those of younger years and comprehension. Ultimately, Clapp-Itnyre shows how children's hymns complicate our understanding of the child-adult binary traditionally seen to be a hallmark of Victorian society. Intersecting with major aesthetic movements of the period, from the peaking of Victorian hymnody to the Golden Age of Illustration, children’s hymn books require scholarly attention to deepen our understanding of the complex aesthetic network for children and adults. Informed by extensive archival research, British Hymn Books for Children, 1800-1900 brings this understudied genre of Victorian culture to critical light.


"This is a highly original work on an important topic, of the kind that makes readers wonder why nobody has ever tackled the subject before." - Nicholas Temperley, University of Illinois, USA

"British Hymn Books for Children, 1800–1900: Re-Tuning the History of Childhood is a remarkable book. In its thoroughness and scholarly detail, it is a lesson to those, myself included, who have hitherto dealt with children’s hymns without considering the complexity of the topic. Alisa Clapp-Itnyre is not afraid to take us on and to defend her point of view firmly, if politely: of the argument of one celebrated critic she writes, ‘I would suggest a few clarifications to this assessment’. She has earned the right to say this by the comprehensiveness of her coverage: there is very little on the topic that she does not seem to have thought of, and she has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the hymn books of the period." - J. R. Watson, University of Durham, UK

"This is an ambitious book, addressing not only the technical issues associated with hymn book production in the nineteenth century but setting the books and the hymns within the society and culture of their time." - Stephen Orchard, Westminster College, Cambridge, UK

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Re-tuning the history of childhood with chords and verses; Creating communities for song: class and gender in children’s hymn-singing experiences; Re-writing the history of children’s literature: three periods of children’s hymnody; Erasing child-adult distinctions: ’crossover’ children’s hymn-texts and tunes; Staging the child: agency and stasis for children in art and hymn-book illustrations; Reforming society: missionary, bands of hope, and bands of mercy hymns; Resurrecting the child: the cult of the deathbed, hymns of faith, and children of life; Works cited; Index.

About the Author

Alisa Clapp-Itnyre is Professor of English at Indiana University East, USA.

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 / Comparative Literature