Enid Blyton and the mystery of children's literature.

RUDD, David Hilary. (1997). Enid Blyton and the mystery of children's literature. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

This thesis examines Enid Blyton as a cultural phenomenon. It seeks to account for her enduring popularity, still immense some thirty years after her death in 1968. However, despite world-wide renown, there is comparatively little serious discussion of her work just as children's literature is itself a neglected area.This thesis uses Blyton as a case study of how cultural studies might open up this marginalised area. It brings together three, often separated lines of investigation textual analysis, production, and reception using the Foucauldian notion of 'discursive threads' to unite them. For textual analysis, three of Blyton's most popular series are examined: 'Noddy', the 'Famous Five', and, to a lesser extent, the 'Malory Towers' books, with other works discussed en passant. The study attends to the literary qualities, but seeks a much wider understanding of the discourses that constitute Blyton's texts, including contemporary events (the context) and other, literary pre-texts. Besides Blyton's own part in the 'production' of her texts (including herself as a text), the study looks more widely at the way Blyton and her work have been manufactured i.e. 'Enid Blyton' as a cultural icon and how this has endured, with amendments, over the generations.The debates around sexism, racism, Englishness and middle-class ethos, which are very much part of the Blyton icon, are closely examined. It is suggested that though there are elements of truth in some of these accusations, they are generally false and, at best, partial constructions. In particular, the Five books are shown to be questioning rather than 'sexist' about the relations between the genders. On racism, a critical analysis is undertaken of the way this whole debate has been constructed, with frequent distortions and misreadings of the texts in question; the terms of reference of such debates are therefore scrutinised, including the history of the golliwog character. In general, it is argued that focusing on these more incidental elements misses the main thrust of Blyton's work, which is largely concerned with another marginalised and disempowered group, children.This fact is most obviously seen in the way that children's own views on Blyton have been largely ignored. Consequently the 'reception' of the texts informs much of the above. Questionnaires were circulated to schools and elsewhere. They were also circulated amongst past readers of Blyton, both in England and abroad, using the Internet. This resulted in some 900 responses from readers, reaching back to those who first read her as children in the 1930s. Interviews were also conducted with contemporary groups of children in schools. These show the very real pleasures involved in reading Blyton, rather than the adult, 'ism'-ridden discourses. Against earlier 'literary' and 'educational' readings, two more apposite ways of reading Blyton are outlined: an approach which situates her in the oral tradition, celebrating the child-hero in a very participatory way, and a psychoanalytically informed reading, the latter showing how Blyton helps create a psychic space within which children can play at being masters of their destiny.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 1997.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:21
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2018 13:06
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20301

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