Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

"The Long-Defended Gate": Juvenilia, the Real Child, and the Aesthetics of Innocence, 1858-1939

Redcay, Anna (2012) "The Long-Defended Gate": Juvenilia, the Real Child, and the Aesthetics of Innocence, 1858-1939. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (811kB) | Preview


Scholars frequently protest against reference to the real child in relation to adult-authored children’s literature. My dissertation exposes the fundamental flaw in extending this injunction to the literary production of real children. By recovering the wildly popular, critically acclaimed and bestselling juvenilia of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I contend that child-authored texts make manifest individual children’s absorption and manipulation of culture. Although critics such as Beverly Lyon Clark aptly note a growing bifurcation of children’s and adult’s literature at the turn of the century, I argue that adult and child authors alike participated in the construction of the “real child” as a trope of literary representation. In highlighting the centrality of the child’s individualistic voice to both juvenilia’s success and canonical literature’s innovations, however, I resist literary-historical narratives that characterize the era of the Cult of the Child as one straightforwardly invested in childhood innocence. Instead, I claim that authors such as Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mark Twain joined the contemporary critics of child writers such as Marjory Fleming and Opal Whiteley in promoting a highly paradoxical aesthetics of innocence integral to the pursuit of narrative authenticity. I illustrate how the co-existence of idealized notions and pragmatic concerns regarding children in this time rendered the “long-defended gate” of childhood a prized but flexible boundary between innocence and experience. In keeping with such developments as the play movement, child study, and child-centered education, adults not only perceived children’s precocious talents as directly dependent upon their naiveté, but also went to great lengths to school children in this natural state. By reading juvenilia as children’s literature, however, I offer an interpretative methodology that resists Romantic binaries positing adults’ and children’s knowledge as distinctive from one another. Far from supporting Jacqueline Rose’s thesis that literature “colonizes” children, I assert that juvenilia marketed to young readers reveal the ways in which real children may actively engage with constructions of innocence and overcome the “impossible” power imbalance between children’s literature and children.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGubar, Marahmjg4@pitt.eduMJG4
Committee MemberBoone, Troyboone@pitt.eduBOONE
Committee MemberCarr, Jean F.jcarr@pitt.eduJCARR
Committee MemberGodley, Amandaagodley@pitt.eduAGODLEY
Date: 3 July 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 October 2011
Approval Date: 3 July 2012
Submission Date: 10 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 223
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Marjory Fleming, St. Nicholas, Daisy Ashford, Opal Whiteley, R. L. Stevenson, Patience Abbe
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2012 13:23
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item