A Book on Children's Literature

The kid in me is still alive
“Youth is such a wonderful thing; it’s a shame to waste it on the young!” This aphorism by George Bernard Shaw brilliantly exposes the ludicrous side of the romantic idealization of children, so characteristic of the 19th century.
For generations, religious leaders, educators and parents in the Western world had viewed childhood as an inferior, defective, irrational and sin-filled stage of human development. Then, this period of life underwent a cultural rehabilitation. From the late 18th century on, and especially in the 19th century, childhood was raised to the level of an ideal, representing moral purity, innocence, honesty and creativity. Childhood became the symbol of everything good in humanity, or for what humans could become if they were not spoiled by corrupt and hypocritical adult society.

Edward Lear, the eminent nonsense poet, was diagnosed by psychologists as someone who had ‘never emotionally recovered’ from his family’s adventures. ‘Perhaps because his childhood was cut short so suddenly and cruelly, he refused to grow up and remained, inside, an eternal child.’ Is the ‘eternal child’ inside the real, pure self the pinnacle of the realization of the artist’s unique personality, or is it no more than a construct, a projection, a regressive fantasy that charges the act of artistic fiction?
[A review by Galia Benziman of “Big Children: Beloved Children’s Authors – Their Lives and Work.” Three volumes: “The English” (228 pages); “The Americans” (262 pages) and “Especially the Europeans” (272 pages) by Yehuda Atlas, Yedioth Ahronoth Publishing, Sifrei Hemed, 2003.]
Haaretz – Israel News | 26 March 2004

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