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Durham e-Theses
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An Exploration of Children’s Literature and Death 1890-2010.

JACKSON, MARGARET,JANE (2018) An Exploration of Children’s Literature and Death 1890-2010. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Death is often considered to be a taboo subject, even more so when we try to think about addressing the subject with children. Nonetheless, it is an important subject which impacts the lives of all of us and often as children. Finding the way in which the subject has been dealt with for children can be problematic; however, it is possible to explore this subject via the medium of children’s literature. This exploration uses both books, which are text only and also picture books.
This thesis uses a social constructionist perspective to explore notions of the ‘child’ and childhood’, which assumes that no concepts have a pre-existing, given nature and that all things are shaped by culture and history. By exploring the ways in which concepts of ‘child’ and childhood’ have altered over time it is then possible to consider and analyse how the subject of death has been presented and, altered overtime, within children’s literature
Books are also constructions and here they have been analysed to offer some insight into what has been deemed suitable subject matter for a child to read and thus to allow prevailing attitudes towards children across the 120 year period of the study to be explored.
The study uses a sample from three periods within the 120 year time span: 1890-1910, 1950-1970 and 1990-2010. Comparison of the ways in which death has been addressed within each period is considered alongside prevailing notions of ‘the child’.
Thematic analysis is used to analyse the books and serves to point up the more surprising findings where death has been addressed in a direct manner across the 120 years.
Although it is clear that the subject has been addressed directly in terms of language used (dead, died) what is also clear is from the 1890’s to 2010 it is the construction of childhood prevalent at the time that alters and thus impacts what can deemed suitable for children.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Education
Keywords:Children's literature. Death. Social Construction. Childhood. Picture books
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 May 2018 08:38

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