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The Fantasy of Family

Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature and the Myth of the Domestic Ideal

By Elizabeth Thiel

Routledge – 2008 – 202 pages

Series: Children's Literature and Culture

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    978-0-415-89937-6
    July 12th 2011
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Description

The myth of the Victorian family remains a pervasive influence within a contemporary Britain that perceives itself to be in social crisis. Nostalgic for a golden age of "Victorian values" in which visions of supportive, united families predominate, the common consciousness, exhorted by social and political discourse, continues to vaunt the "traditional, natural" family as the template by which all other family forms are gauged. Yet this fantasy of family, nurtured and augmented throughout the Victorian era, was essentially a construct that belied the realities of a nineteenth-century world in which orphanhood, fostering, and stepfamilies were endemic.

Focusing primarily on British children's texts written by women and drawing extensively on socio-historic material, The Fantasy of Family considers the paradoxes implicit to the perpetuation of the domestic ideal within the Victorian era and offers new perspectives on both nineteenth-century and contemporary society.

Reviews

'Each of Thiel's analyses are thought-provoking and incisive… The Fantasy of Family is an important and original contribution to the field, as lucidly written as it is admirably researched.' - Bjorn Sundmark, IRSCL

Contents

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER ONE

Redefining the Past

CHAPTER TWO

Snatched From "The Seed-plot" of Degeneracy: The "rescue" of the destitute child in tales of street arab life

CHAPTER THREE

Forever Cursed: Stepmothers, "otherness" and the reinscription of myth in transnormative family narratives

CHAPTER FOUR

"Uncles are one thing…[but] aunts are always nasty!": Relational failures and the discourse of gender bias in foster family stories

CHAPTER FIVE

Mother, Ally, Friend – or Foe? : The "dependable" female author as one of the family

CONCLUSION

Into the Future: The enduring potency of the nineteenth-century domestic ideal

APPENDIX

LIST OF WORKS CITED

NOTES

INDEX

Author Bio

Elizabeth Thiel is Senior Lecturer in Children's Literature at Roehampton University. A former journalist, her research interests lie in both historical and contemporary texts for children. She has published on Victorian writer Brenda and forthcoming publications include work on degenerate ’innocents’ in nineteenth-century literature and on adaptations of Dickens for the child reader.

Name: The Fantasy of Family: Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature and the Myth of the Domestic Ideal (Hardback)Routledge 
Description: By Elizabeth Thiel. The myth of the Victorian family remains a pervasive influence within a contemporary Britain that perceives itself to be in social crisis. Nostalgic for a golden age of "Victorian values" in which visions of supportive, united families...
Categories: Children's Literature, British Literature, 19th Century Literature