University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge > The "Innocence" of Children's Literature - 1880-1960. How Mainstream Children's Literature Ignored Two World Wars and Other Unpleasantness. Or did it?

The "Innocence" of Children's Literature - 1880-1960. How Mainstream Children's Literature Ignored Two World Wars and Other Unpleasantness. Or did it?

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The history of English-language children’s literature is founded on a paradox. On the one hand it is supposed to have a symbiotic relationship with culture, reflecting and influencing social history; on the other, for eighty years it seems to have largely ignored wars, social upheavals and intellectual trends. Is this simply because a lot of texts have been forgotten, or because we have not been reading well-known texts attentively? This lecture takes a cheerfully revisionist and wide-ranging approach, from the dark side of Beatrix Potter, through Percy F. Westerman’s deeply inappropriate A Lively Bit of the Front (1917), the unsung anti-colonialism of Arthur Ransome (and post-colonialism in general) and Mumfie the toy Elephant capturing Hitler in 1942, to the deeply regressive post-Second World War worlds of Philippa Pearce and C. S. Lewis.

Peter Hunt is Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, and in autumn 2013, Visiting Professor at Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice. He has lectured on Children’s Literature at over 150 universities, colleges and to learned societies in 23 countries, and has written or edited 25 books, 190 papers, articles, and review articles, 130 reference-book entries, and 170 reviews. In 2003 he was awarded the Brothers Grimm Award for services to children’s literature, from the International Institute for Children’s Literature, Osaka. He is currently External Examiner for the MPhil and MEd at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge.

This talk is part of the Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge series.

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