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Why Does the Golden Age Matter?

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There is a period in the history of children’s literature that is referred to as the Golden Age, because it produced some of the most significant texts that modern readers know today, including Alice in Wonderland (1865), Little Women (1868), The Secret Garden (1911), and Peter Pan (1911). But why are these texts from this time so popular? What about these texts seems to mark the beginning of the modern reader’s notion of ‘historical’ children’s books? In my presentation I will take a close look at why the Golden Age is significant, especially how the influence of the Romantics helped raise the value of childhood, along with an overarching change in society in part due to a growing secularism and a prominent women’s movement. Though the Golden Age occurred in both England and North America, my focus will be on North America, particularly the United States, as my research is centred there. I will conclude with a brief look at my corpus texts, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), Anne of Green Gables (1908), Daddy-Long-Legs (1911), and Pollyanna (1913), as examples of the change in society, and therefore, literature.

This talk is part of the FERSA Lunchtime Sessions series.

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