Featured Article

Preface to Children’s Literature: Changing Paradigms and Critical Perspectives in Ireland and Beyond

Author: Anne Markey (The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature) and Aedín Clements (University of Notre Dame)

Comments

Rethinking children’s literature lies at the heart of the mutual investigation in which the various contributors to this issue of Breac are involved. Since their emergence as a distinct branch of Anglophone print culture over the course of the eighteenth century, books for young readers have reflected diverse and changing adult concerns and values. While early commentators, including the socially conservative Sarah Trimmer and the more radical William Godwin, were acutely aware of the ideological power of children’s books, it took two centuries for the study of children’s literature to achieve academic respectability. The establishment of the Children’s Literature Association in the United States in 1971, followed by the adoption of children’s literature as a division of the Modern Language Association in 1979, resulted in an increasing acknowledgement of the cultural, social, and political significance of different types of books for children and a concomitant appreciation of the value of the academic study of such texts. Before and since the 1970s, boundaries for what has been considered “proper” for inclusion in children’s books have shifted, and continue to shift considerably, reflecting broader socio-cultural changes and developments. Critical approaches to children’s literature have been similarly influenced by shifting ideological imperatives. In Ireland and elsewhere, the study of children’s literature emerged in institutions involved in teacher-training and is currently guided and shaped by the recognition that it is a complex, challenging, contested, and continually expanding field. With this issue of Breac

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Critical Writing on Irish Children’s Literature since 2000

Author: Aedín Clements (University of Notre Dame) and Anne Markey (The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature)

Comments

This is a guide to critical works on Irish children’s literature. The bibliography includes citations of books and articles on work by Irish authors and illustrators, work set in Ireland, and on children’s literature where an Irish author, illustrator, or work is discussed. The bibliography includes books and journals published since 2000.…

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Children’s Literature: Sexual Identity, Gender, and Childhood

Author: Karín Lesnik-Oberstein (University of Reading, UK)

Comments

On the 23rd of May 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. This event reversed a large part, if not all, of Ireland’s reputation for a Catholic-led conservatism concerning sexual and gender identities. I argue in this article that we can see a parallel-in-miniature to this momentous shift in something of a reversal of children’s literature’s views in this respect, and I will concentrate on exploring what is at stake in the ways that childhood, sexual, and gender identities are constructed in some recent children’s literature criticism in light of these shifts. My primary consideration: what is the ever-burgeoning interest in the gay, queer, cross-dressing, transsexual, or transgender child precisely about?[1]

Read More

Navigating Fiction: Cognitive-Affective Engagement with Place in Children’s Literature

Author: Maria Nikolajeva (University of Cambridge)

Comments

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for identifying the spot in the human brain responsible for spatial orientation.[1] While not discovered yet, there is doubtless a mechanism in the brain that allows readers to orientate within fictional worlds. Such orientation is possible through life-to-text projection, when readers transfer their experience of real places onto fiction, as well as through text-to-life projection, when they learn how to navigate real worlds through reading experience. This essay explores the affordances made possible by fictional texts written and marketed for young readers, which enhance their understanding of fictionality and stimulate attention, imagination, memory, and other aspects of cognitive activity.…

Read More

Whiteness and the Racialization of Irish Identity in Celtic Tiger Children’s Fiction

Author: Clíona Ó Gallchoir (University College Cork)

Comments

This essay examines a small selection of novels for young readers published between 1993 and 2004 which deal in a variety of ways with themes of race and migration in Ireland. Padraic Whyte has drawn attention to “the manner in which children’s texts engage with complex cultural discourses in contemporary Ireland and the significant contribution that children’s novels and films can make to broader debates concerning Irish identity at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century.”[1]

Read More

Rapairí agus Réabhlóidithe: Lárnacht an Fhicsin Staire i gClub Leabhar na Sóisear, 1956-1966

Author: Róisín Adams (The Irish Society for the Study of Children's Literature)

Comments

“Leis an úrscéal stairiúil a mheas i gceart ní mór é a scrúdú i gcomhthéacs na ré ónar eascair sé,”[1] de réir Bhreandáin Delap. Bíonn dearcadh éagsúil ag gach glúin ar imeachtaí stair a dtíre, agus is féidir linn na dearcthaí seo a ríomh sna cineálacha úrscéalta staire a scríobhtar i dtréimhse ar bith. Ó thaobh na n-úrscéalta staire don aos óg de, tá gné eile a gcaithfear í a chur san áireamh, is é sin, i bhfocail John Stephens: “Writing for children is usually purposeful, its intention being to foster in the child reader a positive apperception of some socio-cultural values which, it is assumed, are shared by the author and the audience.”[2]

Read More

Mending a Hole in the Cultural Memory: Forgotten Radical Children’s Books Published in Britain between 1920 and 1950

Author: Kimberley Reynolds (Newcastle University)

Comments

The dominant image of Britain in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s is largely the product of a small group of writers (for example, T.S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Evelyn Waugh) who concocted a potent emotional cocktail from ingredients including survivor guilt, disappointment that they had missed being part of the action, anger at the futility of the “war to end war,” and disillusionment with modernity, which runs through their work. Their feelings were undoubtedly widely shared at the time, and the image of Britain as a place of crisis, decline, pessimism, and anxiety persists to this day in the work of historians and literary critics. Recently, for example, Richard Overy’s The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilization, 1919-1939

Read More

Aesthetic-Ethical-Religious: Goodness Me! Goodness You! Curriculum With A Nod To Where The Wild Things Are

Author: Jones Irwin (St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra)

Comments

A Poem

Sometimes, if not all the time, thinking should start with a poem. The fate of the evocative poem “Crocodile,” by the Russian children’s poet Kornei Chukovsky, will help us focus on some of the tensions and ambiguities at the heart of the curriculum and children debate.[1] But, first, let us simply enjoy the poem itself:…

Read More

Painting the Town Red: The Challenging City in Picturebooks

Author: Valerie Coghlan (Independent Scholar and Lecturer based in Dublin)

Comments

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fourteenth-century frescoes depicting the effects of good and bad governance in a city could be images taken from the pages of a picturebook. It is easy to construct a simple narrative based on the activities of the characters going about their everyday business, with both good and bad results, depending on which panel of the three frescoes is the focus. Lorenzetti was commissioned by the City Council in the Italian city of Siena to paint a fresco on the walls of the Sala dei Nove in the Palazzo Pubblico as a reminder of the importance of carrying out civic duties in a responsible and just manner. The work, now known as “The Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government in the City,” occupies three walls of the Sala. One wall shows the effects of good government, one the allegory of bad government, and another, between them, shows the allegorical figures of Wisdom and Justice presiding over the citizens.  …

Read More

The National Collection of Children’s Books: A Review

Author: Máire Bhreathnach (Independent Scholar)

Comments

This essay examines the rationale behind the National Collection of Children’s Books (NCCB) project, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC), which began in December 2013 and ended in December 2015. Attention then turns to the strengths and weaknesses of the finished project to discuss how its potential value to researchers is seriously undermined by largely avoidable conceptual and methodological flaws. The aim of the IRC is to “fund excellent research within, and between, all disciplines, and in doing so to enhance Ireland’s international reputation as a centre for research and learning.”[1]

Read More

Eliza Fenwick: Writing Life and Literature in Cork

Author: Lissa Paul (Brock University)

Comments

Despite the fact that Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840) was not Irish and did not write children’s literature that was in any way particularly Irish, her two years, between 1812 and 1814, as a governess in Cork figure as a transformative phase in her literary life. It was in Cork that she morphed from radical to reactionary, from her dubious status as a hack writer and single working mother, to appearing as a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances so suited, as she eventually would be, to running elite schools for the daughters of the rich in Barbados, the United States, and Upper Canada. It was also where she honed her literary skills as a letter-writer.…

Read More

Death and the Monster: The Graveyard and the Dream

Author: Roni Natov (Brooklyn College)

Comments

When I was seven, my beloved Uncle Harry died. I didn’t know what to make of my grieving father’s insistence that Uncle Harry had gone to heaven, and so I kept asking, “But did Uncle Harry die?” to which my father kept repeating, “Uncle Harry went to heaven.” Neither of us seemed able to face it, that Uncle Harry had in fact died and that we would never see him again. The never-ness of it sticks in my throat even now.…

Read More

Drámaíocht na Gaeilge sa Seomra Ranga Bunscoile: Modh Ealaíne nó Modheolaíocht?

Author: Claire M. Dunne (Institiúid Oideachais Marino)

Comments

Is féidir smaoineamh ar dhrámaíocht na Gaeilge ar dhá bhealach éagsúla. Ar an gcéad dul síos is cinéal litríochta mionteanga í a tháinig amach le linn na hAthbheochana Náisiúnta agus Cultúrtha in Éirinn ón mbliain 1880, tionscadal a raibh sé d’aidhm aige mórtas náisiúnta a chothú i measc daoine as a dteanga agus as a gcultúr dúchasach.[1]

Read More

From the Abbey to the World of Children’s Literature: Padraic Colum’s, The Second Shepherds’ Play

Author: James P. Sullivan (Saginaw Valley State University)

Comments

“I had to condense, expand, heighten, subdue, rearrange—in a word I had to retell them”:[1] so Padraic Colum, a leading playwright in the early days of Dublin’s Abbey Theater, described his technique for transforming scattered fragments of Pacific island folk tales into a multivolume literary collection published in 1924, The Legends of Hawaii.

Read More

Current Articles

Preface to Children’s Literature: Changing Paradigms and Critical Perspectives in Ireland and Beyond

Author: Anne Markey (The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature) and Aedín Clements (University of Notre Dame)

Comments

Rethinking children’s literature lies at the heart of the mutual investigation in which the various contributors to this issue of Breac are involved. Since their emergence as a distinct branch of Anglophone print culture over the course of the eighteenth century, books for young readers have reflected diverse and changing adult concerns and values. While early commentators, including the socially conservative Sarah Trimmer and the more radical William Godwin, were acutely aware of the ideological power of children’s books, it took two centuries for the study of children’s literature to achieve academic respectability. The establishment of the Children’s Literature Association in the United States in 1971, followed by the adoption of children’s literature as a division of the Modern Language Association in 1979, resulted in an increasing acknowledgement of the cultural, social, and political significance of different types of books for children and a concomitant appreciation of the value of the academic study of such texts. Before and since the 1970s, boundaries for what has been considered “proper” for inclusion in children’s books have shifted, and continue to shift considerably, reflecting broader socio-cultural changes and developments. Critical approaches to children’s literature have been similarly influenced by shifting ideological imperatives. In Ireland and elsewhere, the study of children’s literature emerged in institutions involved in teacher-training and is currently guided and shaped by the recognition that it is a complex, challenging, contested, and continually expanding field. With this issue of Breac

Read More

Critical Writing on Irish Children’s Literature since 2000

Author: Aedín Clements (University of Notre Dame) and Anne Markey (The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature)

Comments

This is a guide to critical works on Irish children’s literature. The bibliography includes citations of books and articles on work by Irish authors and illustrators, work set in Ireland, and on children’s literature where an Irish author, illustrator, or work is discussed. The bibliography includes books and journals published since 2000.…

Read More

Children’s Literature: Sexual Identity, Gender, and Childhood

Author: Karín Lesnik-Oberstein (University of Reading, UK)

Comments

On the 23rd of May 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. This event reversed a large part, if not all, of Ireland’s reputation for a Catholic-led conservatism concerning sexual and gender identities. I argue in this article that we can see a parallel-in-miniature to this momentous shift in something of a reversal of children’s literature’s views in this respect, and I will concentrate on exploring what is at stake in the ways that childhood, sexual, and gender identities are constructed in some recent children’s literature criticism in light of these shifts. My primary consideration: what is the ever-burgeoning interest in the gay, queer, cross-dressing, transsexual, or transgender child precisely about?[1]

Read More

Navigating Fiction: Cognitive-Affective Engagement with Place in Children’s Literature

Author: Maria Nikolajeva (University of Cambridge)

Comments

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for identifying the spot in the human brain responsible for spatial orientation.[1] While not discovered yet, there is doubtless a mechanism in the brain that allows readers to orientate within fictional worlds. Such orientation is possible through life-to-text projection, when readers transfer their experience of real places onto fiction, as well as through text-to-life projection, when they learn how to navigate real worlds through reading experience. This essay explores the affordances made possible by fictional texts written and marketed for young readers, which enhance their understanding of fictionality and stimulate attention, imagination, memory, and other aspects of cognitive activity.…

Read More

Whiteness and the Racialization of Irish Identity in Celtic Tiger Children’s Fiction

Author: Clíona Ó Gallchoir (University College Cork)

Comments

This essay examines a small selection of novels for young readers published between 1993 and 2004 which deal in a variety of ways with themes of race and migration in Ireland. Padraic Whyte has drawn attention to “the manner in which children’s texts engage with complex cultural discourses in contemporary Ireland and the significant contribution that children’s novels and films can make to broader debates concerning Irish identity at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century.”[1]

Read More

Rapairí agus Réabhlóidithe: Lárnacht an Fhicsin Staire i gClub Leabhar na Sóisear, 1956-1966

Author: Róisín Adams (The Irish Society for the Study of Children's Literature)

Comments

“Leis an úrscéal stairiúil a mheas i gceart ní mór é a scrúdú i gcomhthéacs na ré ónar eascair sé,”[1] de réir Bhreandáin Delap. Bíonn dearcadh éagsúil ag gach glúin ar imeachtaí stair a dtíre, agus is féidir linn na dearcthaí seo a ríomh sna cineálacha úrscéalta staire a scríobhtar i dtréimhse ar bith. Ó thaobh na n-úrscéalta staire don aos óg de, tá gné eile a gcaithfear í a chur san áireamh, is é sin, i bhfocail John Stephens: “Writing for children is usually purposeful, its intention being to foster in the child reader a positive apperception of some socio-cultural values which, it is assumed, are shared by the author and the audience.”[2]

Read More

Mending a Hole in the Cultural Memory: Forgotten Radical Children’s Books Published in Britain between 1920 and 1950

Author: Kimberley Reynolds (Newcastle University)

Comments

The dominant image of Britain in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s is largely the product of a small group of writers (for example, T.S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Evelyn Waugh) who concocted a potent emotional cocktail from ingredients including survivor guilt, disappointment that they had missed being part of the action, anger at the futility of the “war to end war,” and disillusionment with modernity, which runs through their work. Their feelings were undoubtedly widely shared at the time, and the image of Britain as a place of crisis, decline, pessimism, and anxiety persists to this day in the work of historians and literary critics. Recently, for example, Richard Overy’s The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilization, 1919-1939

Read More

Aesthetic-Ethical-Religious: Goodness Me! Goodness You! Curriculum With A Nod To Where The Wild Things Are

Author: Jones Irwin (St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra)

Comments

A Poem

Sometimes, if not all the time, thinking should start with a poem. The fate of the evocative poem “Crocodile,” by the Russian children’s poet Kornei Chukovsky, will help us focus on some of the tensions and ambiguities at the heart of the curriculum and children debate.[1] But, first, let us simply enjoy the poem itself:…

Read More

Painting the Town Red: The Challenging City in Picturebooks

Author: Valerie Coghlan (Independent Scholar and Lecturer based in Dublin)

Comments

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fourteenth-century frescoes depicting the effects of good and bad governance in a city could be images taken from the pages of a picturebook. It is easy to construct a simple narrative based on the activities of the characters going about their everyday business, with both good and bad results, depending on which panel of the three frescoes is the focus. Lorenzetti was commissioned by the City Council in the Italian city of Siena to paint a fresco on the walls of the Sala dei Nove in the Palazzo Pubblico as a reminder of the importance of carrying out civic duties in a responsible and just manner. The work, now known as “The Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government in the City,” occupies three walls of the Sala. One wall shows the effects of good government, one the allegory of bad government, and another, between them, shows the allegorical figures of Wisdom and Justice presiding over the citizens.  …

Read More

The National Collection of Children’s Books: A Review

Author: Máire Bhreathnach (Independent Scholar)

Comments

This essay examines the rationale behind the National Collection of Children’s Books (NCCB) project, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC), which began in December 2013 and ended in December 2015. Attention then turns to the strengths and weaknesses of the finished project to discuss how its potential value to researchers is seriously undermined by largely avoidable conceptual and methodological flaws. The aim of the IRC is to “fund excellent research within, and between, all disciplines, and in doing so to enhance Ireland’s international reputation as a centre for research and learning.”[1]

Read More

Eliza Fenwick: Writing Life and Literature in Cork

Author: Lissa Paul (Brock University)

Comments

Despite the fact that Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840) was not Irish and did not write children’s literature that was in any way particularly Irish, her two years, between 1812 and 1814, as a governess in Cork figure as a transformative phase in her literary life. It was in Cork that she morphed from radical to reactionary, from her dubious status as a hack writer and single working mother, to appearing as a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances so suited, as she eventually would be, to running elite schools for the daughters of the rich in Barbados, the United States, and Upper Canada. It was also where she honed her literary skills as a letter-writer.…

Read More

Death and the Monster: The Graveyard and the Dream

Author: Roni Natov (Brooklyn College)

Comments

When I was seven, my beloved Uncle Harry died. I didn’t know what to make of my grieving father’s insistence that Uncle Harry had gone to heaven, and so I kept asking, “But did Uncle Harry die?” to which my father kept repeating, “Uncle Harry went to heaven.” Neither of us seemed able to face it, that Uncle Harry had in fact died and that we would never see him again. The never-ness of it sticks in my throat even now.…

Read More

Drámaíocht na Gaeilge sa Seomra Ranga Bunscoile: Modh Ealaíne nó Modheolaíocht?

Author: Claire M. Dunne (Institiúid Oideachais Marino)

Comments

Is féidir smaoineamh ar dhrámaíocht na Gaeilge ar dhá bhealach éagsúla. Ar an gcéad dul síos is cinéal litríochta mionteanga í a tháinig amach le linn na hAthbheochana Náisiúnta agus Cultúrtha in Éirinn ón mbliain 1880, tionscadal a raibh sé d’aidhm aige mórtas náisiúnta a chothú i measc daoine as a dteanga agus as a gcultúr dúchasach.[1]

Read More

From the Abbey to the World of Children’s Literature: Padraic Colum’s, The Second Shepherds’ Play

Author: James P. Sullivan (Saginaw Valley State University)

Comments

“I had to condense, expand, heighten, subdue, rearrange—in a word I had to retell them”:[1] so Padraic Colum, a leading playwright in the early days of Dublin’s Abbey Theater, described his technique for transforming scattered fragments of Pacific island folk tales into a multivolume literary collection published in 1924, The Legends of Hawaii.

Read More