Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Richard S Lowry
Didactic, scientifically oriented children's literature crisscrossed the Atlantic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, finding wide popularity in Great Britain and the United States; yet the genre has since suffered from a reputation for being dull and pedantic and has been neglected by scholars. Challenging this scholarly devaluation, "Science and Imagination in Anglo-American Children's Books, 1760--1855" argues that didactic, scientifically oriented children's books play upon and encourage the use of the imagination. Three significant Anglo-American children's authors---Thomas Day, Maria Edgeworth, and Nathaniel Hawthorne---infuse their writings with the wonders of science and the clear message that an active imagination is a necessary component of a moral upbringing. Indeed, these authors' books, most particularly Sandford and Merton (1783--1789), Harry and Lucy Concluded (1825), and A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (1852), are more than mere lessons: they are didactic fantasies intended to spark creativity within their readers.;These didactic fantasies are best understood in the context of the emerging industrial revolution and the height of the Atlantic slave trade. These phenomena, combined with the entrenchment of classicism in Anglo-American culture and the lesser-known transatlantic botany craze, shaped the ways in which Day, Edgeworth, and Hawthorne crafted their children's stories. Certainly dramatic changes on both sides of the Atlantic during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries influenced the differences in the texts. More important to this study, however, are the vital connections among these stories. Each author draws heavily upon Rousseau's ubiquitous child-rearing treatise Emile and upon her or his literary predecessor to create children's books that encourage exploring nature through scientific experimentation and imaginative enterprise.;Yet these writers do not encourage the imagination run amok. Rather, they see the need for morally grounded scientific endeavor, for which they rely primarily on classicism and on gender ideology. Incorporating tales of the ancient world to inculcate the ideal of a virtuous, disinterested, and learned citizen responsible to the larger body politic, the three children's authors---but most notably and explicitly Hawthorne---tie a romanticized, classical past to the emerging industrial world.
© The Author
Burr, Sandra, "Science and imagination in Anglo-American children's books, 1760--1855" (2005). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1539623463.