University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars > Cutting, Gluing and Playing House: The Fun of Making Dolls’ Houses of One’s Own

Cutting, Gluing and Playing House: The Fun of Making Dolls’ Houses of One’s Own

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When girls today enjoy playing The SIMs, a computer game that brings a dolls’ house to life in virtual reality, what was it like when their great great grandmammas would rather make their own dolls’ houses—with paper and glue—and furnish their dolls’ houses with odds and ends easily found at home? This paper discusses the trend of ‘how to’ articles popular in children’s magazines in the late nineteenth century, together with other advice manuals and paper dolls’ house books for young readers, to examine how making toys of one’s own was used as an effective method to teach the child reader good morals and values such as tidiness, thrift and altruism. All these virtues that the Victorians highlighted were demonstrated in the genre that encouraged young readers to be creative and imaginative as they carefully followed the instructions step by step to carry out their own dolls’ house projects.

Nancy Wei-Ning Chen recently completed her PhD in English at University College London. Her thesis, ‘To the Dolls’ House: Children’s Reading and Playing in Victorian and Edwardian England’ examines representations of dolls’ houses and dolls’ house play in English children’s literature in the long nineteenth century and the relevance of dolls’ house play to the everyday life of upper-and middle-class children. Her other research interests include studies of home and domestic culture, nineteenth-century children’s magazines, book history and commodification of children’s literature. She volunteers at the V&A Museum of Childhood where she help catalogue dolls’ house items among all sorts of toys held in the Learning Department.

This talk is part of the Pedagogy, Language, Arts & Culture in Education (PLACE) Group Seminars series.

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