Images of Australia in books for children : 1940-1970

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2000
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This thesis is primarily a recording and an examination of Australian children's fiction written between 1940 and 1970, that is, the period of Australia's involvement in World War II and the post-war years. After a low period in writing for children in the 1930s there was a resurgence in the 50s leading to the rise of an 'establishment' of Australian writers, the members of whom received international acclaim. The thesis examines the historical, social, educational and cultural factors that contributed to this flowering. It also sets out the critical and theoretical framework for the discussion of the works themselves. In sympathy with the contention by Watkins (1994, 4) that 'images of landscape and myths of the nation help shape our children's identity', there is an emphasis throughout the study on the images of Australia that were being presented to child readers. These images are not just of landscape, of the country itself and its wildlife, but they include the patterns of family and social life and internal images of how characters think and feel―qualities of what Hollindale (1997) terms 'childness'. While the war years and the immediate post-war period produced a great deal of ephemeral material, much of which has not before been uncovered by critics (such as the huge output of paperbacks published under the pseudonym of 'John Mystery'), such publications are part of social history and represent popular images designed to appeal to children's imaginations and to promote reading habits. Images of the Aboriginal people appear here and in the more serious literature and this thesis records the changing perception among writers and artists of indigenous Australians. Such images, in the main, reflected government policies and official attitudes. During the period under investigation the scope of literature for children, both at home and abroad, widened considerably. At the same time there were new developments in the craft of narrative. So the thesis examines, for example, material for children still acquiring autonomy in reading, the evolution of the picture book and of young adult literature in the context of already established genres such as adventure, family, nature and fantasy. The introductory chapters deal with the cultural, literary and critical context in which the literature is discussed. Thereafter the study is by genre but is developmental in two ways: the early chapters deal with works dealing with the discovery, exploration and settlement of the colony, but all chapters trace the development of a particular genre or that literature written specifically with a particular age group in mind.
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