|
Add to GoodReads

Goodly Is Our Heritage

Children's Literature, Empire, and the Certitude of Character

Rashna B. Singh

Paperback
"Patterns of sublimation begin in childhood. So does binary and hierarchical thinking. The child must be trained to see in oppositions and on a scale of order. So the story of nation and people, race and culture begins as the bedtime story." (The author)

How else, asks Rashna Singh, do we explain the uncanny physical resemblance between Osama bin Laden and the evil Jaffar (of Disney's motion picture Aladdin)? Singh provides a most persuasive argument for why these sentiments are both insidious and compelling, and how they resonate to this day. While she includes such classic examples as The Secret Garden, Robinson Crusoe, and the Babar series, it is her inclusion of genuinely neglected fictions that lends her analyses a special richness. In an engaging narrative style, Singh demonstrates how constructions of character evolve into cultural imprints which encourage their young readers to choose the "goodly" side, with little thought of "badly" repercussions.
« less more »
Scarecrow Press
Pages: 328Size: 6 x 8 1/2
978-0-8108-5043-9 • Paperback • November 2004 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
Rashna B Singh is a visiting professor at Colorado College and the author of The Imperishable Empire: British Fiction on India (1988), as well as numerous scholarly articles and conference papers on issues in British colonial and postcolonial literature.
In 2003 Dr. Singh was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to participate in a seminar at Oxford University and in 1998 she was chosen by the Massachusetts Council of International Education to lecture on "Perceptions and Representations of the Other" at various colleges in the state.
Singh (visiting professor, Colorado College) discusses the treatment of character building as an instrument of colonial discourse and practice, arguing that values assigned to good character (courage, leadership, loyalty) are part of a political and social program and that writing for children, consciously or unconsciously, services that program. Tracing the notions that character counts and needs nurturing and that its origins are predetermined by race, the author looks at classic children's stories (Robinson Crusoe, Tom Brown's School-Days, Peter Pan, Little Black Sambo, The Story of Babar, The Secret Garden) and at recent popular films (Disney's The Lion King and Aladdin). She devotes one chapter to Enid Blyton's popular stories (calling them ubiquitous in the Commonwealth) in which courage and fortitude reflect individual character and Englishness and foreigners are corruptive. A complementary chapter treats American stories of frontier life written in the 1940s and 1950s, with their emphasis on racial stereotypes that set white settlers apart from the native people. Singh articulates her desire to reform children's literature: Colonialism and conquest are contingent on the social constructions of racial identity and
CHOICE


...examines how, in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and North American children's literature, 'Character...must be consciously promoted, and while character needs careful nurturance, its origins are predetermined by race' (41). This inquiry into the relations between youth, character, race, and empire has been underway for some time—for instance, in the works, cited by Singh, of Michael Rosenthal and Robert H. MacDonald—yet it is still a ripe field for study.
Children's Literature Association Quarterly


...looks at literature for children as an imagining agency that worked with and within the colonial agenda, mostly in the context of the British empire, but also of the US pioneering of The Wild West. She examines the typology of character in selected writings, especially those still circulating, and analyzes how constructions of character became cultural imprints that served a functional purpose in the wider context of race and power.
Reference and Research Book News


Singh (visiting professor, Colorado College) discusses the treatment of character building as an "instrument of colonial discourse and practice," arguing that values assigned to good character (courage, leadership, loyalty) are part of "a political and social program" and that "writing for children, consciously or unconsciously, services that program." Tracing the notions that character counts and needs nurturing and that "its origins are predetermined by race," the author looks at classic children's stories (Robinson Crusoe, Tom Brown's School-Days, Peter Pan, Little Black Sambo, The Story of Babar, The Secret Garden) and at recent popular films (Disney's The Lion King and Aladdin). She devotes one chapter to Enid Blyton's popular stories (calling them "ubiquitous" in the Commonwealth) in which courage and fortitude reflect "individual character" and "Englishness" and foreigners are "corruptive." A complementary chapter treats American stories of frontier life written in the 1940s and 1950s, with their emphasis on racial stereotypes that set white settlers apart from the native people. Singh articulates her desire to reform children's literature: "Colonialism and conquest are contingent on the social constructions of racial identity and racial difference."
CHOICE


ALSO RECOMMENDED