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The mainstreaming of Children’s Gothic

March 31, 2012

In their introduction, the editors of The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the borders make a number of interesting comments about the shift towards the Gothic in recently published children’s literature. They write:

“…fear or the pretence of fear has become a dominant mode of enjoyment in literature for young people.” (1)

“…in children’s literature today, the Gothic is mainstream.” (1)

“Children’s and young adult texts have become veritable playgrounds for revising and expanding the Gothic chronotope. Indeed the children’s book itself becomes a new location for the Gothic, with its intricate architecture of intertextuality and labyrinthine reference….” (referencing Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario, p.6)

The inrushing of the Gothic into children’s culture … speaks among other things to our social order’s sense of unease with the knowingness of children and the ambiguity of victimization; were it a purely reactionary or conservative trend, however, it would respond with calls for ease or social stability, with the simple if violent expulsion of evil and the restoration of the status quo. On the other hand, by allowing for the return of the repressed, children’s Gothic just might be a site for recalculation, reassessment of how things are, and hence even the disestablishment, dismantling, or at least a questioning of the status quo. The most radical texts in recent literature seek not to expulse or contain the Gothic, but rather to make a viable space for it in the topology of the human.” (8)

“Everyone likes a good shiver because it shakes us free of security while leaving our security intact.” (11)

The appeal of the Gothic has something to do with unrestraint, transgression, and the overturning of normalcy.” (11)

“The Gothic… warns of the dangers mysteriously close to even the most familiar places. It reminds us that the world is not safe. It challenges the pastoral myths of childhood, replacing these with myths of darkness drawing down, creatures in the forests of the night.” (12-13)

“The Gothic is a form that examines our fear of desire.” (14)

Authors considered in this volume of essays include Neil Gaiman, Margaret Mahy, Garth Nix, Roald Dahl, Gary Crew, J. K. Rowling, as well as a variety of genres and ‘ages’ of children’s literature.

Ref: Introduction, pp.1-14 in Eds. Anna Jackson, Karen Coats, and Roderick McGillis (2008) The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the borders. Routledge: New York


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