Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Literary and Cultural Studies
This dissertation traces the separation of children’s literature from a general fiction market to its own lucrative genre during the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century in order to demonstrate the shifting attitudes about childhood and womanhood affecting, or affected by, the development of the children’s literary market in America. I focus on the shifting ideology about children and childhood as a separate sphere and the ability of the literary marketplace to harness the profit potential of changing attitudes and advancements in consumer culture. To that end, the analysis suggests mass-culture and shifting cultural ideas about both femininity and childhood play significant roles in developing children’s literature as a separate genre and solidifying its role in the literary marketplace during the Golden Age of the early twentieth century. I analyze neglected short stories and novels from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Sidney to argue that their overlooked texts can offer opportunities for new research and are important works to include in comprehensive scholarly discussions of major themes for not only these authors, but also the development of children’s literature as a whole. For example, Hawthorne’s “The Snow-Image” and Alcott’s “Fancy’s Friend” reveal anxieties about female creativity and artistic vision with links to the commercial and literary marketplace. Both Hawthorne’s A Wonder-Book and Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl redefine what it means to be “American” and explore similar conflicts of creativity. Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series builds upon Alcott’s sentimentalization of poverty and exploits the romanticized child, illustrating the predominance of these attitudes in the late-nineteenth century. The life and work of illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith effectively demonstrate the anxieties of female creativity in the literary and artistic marketplace, also present in Alcott and Hawthorne, and expose the new possibilities of independent womanhood alluded to in Alcott’s novel. Furthermore, Smith’s illustrations continue the trope of the romanticized child, like Sidney, to demonstrate the conflicting place that women artists and writers find themselves in the early twentieth century in terms of careers and subject matter.
dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Koester, Marilyn Bloss, "From Snow-Girls to Water-Babies: Shifting Aesthetics and Traditions in the Children's Literary Marketplace" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1464.