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Childhood and the ClassicsBritain and America, 1850-1965$
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Sheila Murnaghan and Deborah H. Roberts

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199583478

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199583478.001.0001

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“Very Capital Reading for Children”

“Very Capital Reading for Children”

Hawthorne, Kingsley, and the Transformation of Myth into Children’s Literature

(p.11) 1 “Very Capital Reading for Children”
Childhood and the Classics

Sheila Murnaghan

Deborah H. Roberts

Oxford University Press

This chapter treats the transformation of classical myth into children’s pleasure reading by Nathaniel Hawthorne (A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, 1851 and Tanglewood Tales, 1853) and Charles Kingsley (The Heroes, 1855), with attention to earlier handbooks and collections and to contemporary reservations about myth as suitable reading for children. Both authors use the fairy tale as a model and assume a natural affinity between children and the time in which the myths originated, but they also differ significantly. In Hawthorne’s Romantic vision, myth is archetypal and universal, equally suited to girls and boys, and conducive to free and imaginative play in an American setting; in Kingsley’s progressive vision, myth belongs to a childlike historical moment and serves as a prelude to the different sorts of education that await his boy and girl readers and as a vehicle for Christian and British values.

Keywords:   Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Kingsley, A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys, Tanglewood Tales, The Heroes, fairy tales, Romantic views of childhood, retold myths

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