Tuesday, March 18, 2008


If you are not interested in children's literature or nineteenth-century America, then you might want to stop reading.

If you are, I have an essay on Lydia Sigourney (the woman pictured above), in the current issue of "Children's Literature Association Quarterly." Here's a summary of the essay by the journal's editor:

--Ken Parille's "'What Our Boys Are Reading'" reveals the limitations of our received view of boys' reading as reinforcing "notions of male authority and privilege," in contrast to the disciplinary function of girls' reading. By examining Lydia Sigourney's writings about boyhood literacy alongside her biography of her son, Andrew, who died at the age of nineteen, Parille investigates Sigourney's critique of the "harmful norms" of "boyhood masculinity" perpetuated by the idea of "heroic imitation" in antebellum literary culture. Parille demonstrates that Sigourney's insistence that reading should cultivate boys' "domestic virtues" is echoed in later fiction for boys, such as Francis Forrester's Dick Duncan. Modern critics' tendency to divide nineteenth-century children's literature into "boys' books" (Twain) and "girls' books" (Alcott) obscures the complexity of both boys' reading and authors' attitudes toward the young. By questioning our reliance on "familiar classification of authors . . . by gender or perceived literary seriousness," Parille asks us to re-examine our "long-held beliefs" about boyhood. --

This link to a PDF likely only works if you are on a computer at a university with a subscription:


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