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

Cerebral Pleasures; Children's Literature and Philosophy

Pendlebury, K.S. (2013) Cerebral Pleasures; Children's Literature and Philosophy. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB) | Preview


Cerebral Pleasures brings together two fields concerned with the edification of children’s minds: childhood studies as it occurs in the English department and a number of interdisciplinary programs; and a minor movement in academic philosophy whose proponents argue for the philosophical education of children. While childhood studies tends toward a bleak view of children’s literature and culture, often implying that it has a potentially deadening effect on young people’s powers of critical thinking, I contend that a category of children’s book, which presents philosophical material and introduces its readers to cerebral pleasures, has neglected educative value. Hence, I argue against stock cynicism about juvenile literature, and examine a number of disciplinary premises that have led to a stalemate in the field, including: the polarization of essentialist and constructivist approaches to childhood, an oversimplified understanding of the way texts manifest ideology, and the injunction to restrict criticism to matters of representation. I explore the diverse responses to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books to illustrate some of trends in, and difficulties of, literary interpretation, noting that a great range of contradictory readings of the Alices are often simultaneously accurate, but proceed from different interpretive assumptions. At the same time, I am concerned with another critical commonplace in childhood studies: that children’s books are either instructive or entertaining, and that “pleasure” and “pedagogy” are opposites. To the contrary, philosophical children’s literature demonstrates that these faculties can not only occur simultaneously, but that they can be intimates: such that it is sometimes difficult (and invariably unnecessary) to differentiate learning and play. In my sampling of texts, I sacrifice breadth for depth, analyzing the Alices, L. Frank Baum’s portion of the Oz series, and Gertrude Stein’s The World Is Round for their philosophical content, and exploring the ways in which the books attempt to entice readers to participate in what Lewis Carroll called “mental recreation.”


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Pendlebury, K.S.ksp20@pitt.eduKSP20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSmith, Philip E.psmith@pitt.eduPSMITH
Committee MemberBoone, Troyboone@pitt.eduBOONE
Committee MemberGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduGLAZENER
Committee MemberGodley, Amandaagodley@pitt.eduAGODLEY
Date: 1 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 April 2013
Approval Date: 1 July 2013
Submission Date: 22 May 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 262
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: Philosophy, children's literature, children, thinking, pedagogy, pleasure, James Kincaid, Gertrude Stein, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, Wonderland, Oz, Rose, Alice, mental recreation, Brian Sutton-Smith, play, Wittgenstein
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2013 18:39
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item