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Children’s literature as a genre has not received much attention from the academic world in India up till now. This collection of essays and articles, is an attempt to look at the shape of writing for children from the nineteenth century onwards, and to question the political and cultural context in which it took place. Crucial questions include the conundrum of whether (and how) childhood and its books have been ‘invented’ by publishers and writers, and how and from what sources literature of the child has been produced and presented.
This includes the vexed question of textbooks and their relationship to the State, the imperial context and the creation of the categories of subject and ruler in child readers, the marketing of literature through journals and other media, questions of gender and gendered reading, and the complex interplay between real and fictional children.
Focusing on India but ranging all over the world, these essays create a foundation and a starting point for discussion on this subject in academic contexts in India. Written by experts in their various fields, the essays cover subjects as diverse as the philosophy behind the Amar Chitra Katha comic books from the 1960s onwards in India, the writings of Lila Majumdar, a pioneer writer for girls in Bengali, Rudyard Kipling and his imperial animal kingdom, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, winner of the Newbery Prize for children’s fiction in 1928, Winnie the Pooh as a version of the pastoral, and secret readers of the Boy’s Own Paper. The introduction pulls together the various critical strands implicit in the book and situates Indian scholarship on the map of genre theory, providing students with a handy point of reference.
Now that teaching and research in India is becoming interested in popular genres, and syllabi are broadening to include non-canonical literature, this book will fill a need for critical work on literature for children.
Rimi B. Chatterjee is Senior Lecturer at Jadavpur University. She is also a writer of fiction. City of Love is her most recent novel.
Nilanjana Gupta is Professor of English at Jadavpur University. She has also authored/edited books on ghost stories including one for children.