University of Tasmania
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Bright shoots of everlastingness : children's fiction as secular scripture

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posted on 2023-05-27, 06:46 authored by Buckland, Corinne(Corrine Anitra)
This thesis examines adult interest in twentieth-century children's fiction within the context of adult culture and argues that it performs a religious function. A number of critical commentators have described the twentieth century as a period of cultural \failure\" largely because of the destructive aspects of postmodernism and the diminishing of values. Children's fiction however has remained relatively resistant to these trends. The values of religion were once expressed in literature (and thence in liberal humanism) but they have now been relegated to literature for children. This is because childhood especially its embodiment of innocence remains a \"sacred space\" in our culture (though even this is under threat). The myths of Eden and the neo-Platonic tradition are particularly relevant to children's literature and recur in the novels themselves in critical writing about them and in writing about childhood. The sacred notion of childhood taps into the backwards journey to an eternal pre-birth existence that Henry Vaughan yearns for in \"The Retreate\" and this poem is a focus for the whole discussion. The first half of the thesis explores children's literature as a form and as a genre. The implied reader in particular the notion of the dual address that speaks to children and adults simultaneously allows for a depth and significance similar to that of scripture and of parable in particular. It is especially significant that children's literature preserves the romance form that Northrop Frye has designated \"the secular scripture.\" The second part of the thesis focuses on the idealisation of experience that is such a strong characteristic of children's books. This is evident in the expression of wonder the sublime and beauty all aspects of the numinous and thus related to spiritual experience. Idealisation is also expressed in ideals of right conduct and moral goodness: the Good that Iris Murdoch calls \"the sovereign virtue.\" This discussion is indebted to Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy and his insight that when the numinous is schematised within goodness it evokes an experience of the holy. Children's fiction is thus uniquely situated to successfully embody religious values and religious experience \"bright shoots of everlastingness\" and is very frequently a form of secular scripture."


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Copyright 2002 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 2002. Includes bibliographical references

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