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Chair der Sitzung: Christine Lötscher, Universität Hildesheim / Universität Zürich
Ort:C (Seminarraum III) Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, Grunewaldstr. 35, 12165 Berlin
Fairy-lands Forlorn: Re-enchantment and the Romantic Child in Children’s Fantasy Literature
Universität Leipzig, Deutschland
While conceptions of childhood have been subject to constant changes throughout the centuries, the notion of the Romantic child as idealized image mapped out by Romantic poets, most prominently William Wordsworth and William Blake, has had a lasting effect on literary depictions of childhood to the present day. Thus, childhood began to be associated with the divine and inherently good and is often used as a signifier for enchantment both in adult and children’s literature and media. Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) allocates notions of enchantment to the premodern world as opposed to an overall sentiment of disenchantment as a marker for the modern age. By tracing a timeline from premodern enchantment towards disenchantment, which inevitably evokes a desire for a re-enchantment of the world, Charles Taylor also refers to Romanticism as a countermovement to a lost sense of enchantment and an overall critique of disengaged reason.
Based on Taylor’s conceptualisation, this paper will examine prominent ideas of childhood as a location of enchantment and point to various narratives of children’s fantasy in order to assess the interrelation between childhood and fantastic spaces. In fact, secondary worlds, such as Neverland, Narnia or Fantastica, are frequently reserved for child characters and become inaccessible once the child characters grow up. The child's access to fantastic spaces and recurrent encounter with the fantastic point to an affinity of childhood with the realm of Fäerie, an aspect that is also addressed in Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories”. Accordingly, the Taylor’s dichotomy of enchantment and disenchantment as premodern and modern world order also provide an analogy to childhood as an enchanted state that is eventually outgrown by the disenchantment of adulthood. Therefore, this paper will look at notions of childhood as an enchanted state and thus explore notions of the Romantic child which can still be found in contemporary fantasy narratives.
Rewriting the Romantic Myth of the Child in the later Nineteenth Century
Corina Maria David
1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia, Romania
In essence, the Romantics invented our modern idea of childhood”, said Proessor Jonathan Bate in one of his most persuasive Gresham College lectures. Unlike Puritans, who had seen children as sinful creatures who needed moral guidance on the path towards redemption – and their spirit was still alive at the time Chralotte Bronte was writing Jane Eyre – Romantics breathed new life into the concept of childhood which was now associated with innocence and freedom. While most of the Romantics incorporated the theme of childhood in their writings, they did so to preserve the idyllic and to respond to the anxieties aroused by the industrial revolution. However, as the second part of the nineteenth century was marked by Darwin’s theory of evolution, childhood began to be perceived differently, society and adults being considered responsible for the proper shaping of children into sensible adults. The main purpose of the present paper is to restore Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, A Fairly Tale for a Land Baby to its one time glory as a remarkable novel which successfully combines the romantic theme of childhood – not in an idyllic, but in a harsh guise - with the scientific intimations of the day. It questions the nature of the fantastic itself which, in the absence of proof to sustain the contrary, may well be as real as any tangible thing: “The most wonderful and the strongest things in the world, you know, are just the things which no one can see. There is life in you; and it is the life in you which makes you grow, and move, and think: and yet you can’t see it.” (The Water Babies: Kindle edition).