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Colonising Shakespeare? : agency and authority in Gregory Rogers's Shakespearean picture books

Hateley, Erica (2008) Colonising Shakespeare? : agency and authority in Gregory Rogers's Shakespearean picture books. In Other Worlds in Children's Literature : Fantasy, Reality and Imagination : Australasian Children's Literature Association for Research 8th International Conference (ACLAR2008), 27-29 June 2008, Wellington, New Zealand. (Unpublished)

Abstract

“You need to be able to tell stories. Illustration is a literature, not a pure fine art. It’s the fine art of writing with pictures.” – Gregory Rogers.

This paper reads two recent wordless picture books by Australian illustrator Gregory Rogers in order to consider how “Shakespeare” is produced as a complex object of consumption for the implied child reader: The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard (2004) and Midsummer Knight (2006). In these books other worlds are constructed via time-travel and travel to a fantasy world, and clearly presume reader competence in narrative temporality and structure, and cultural literacy (particularly in reference to Elizabethan London and William Shakespeare), even as they challenge normative concepts via use of the fantastic. Exploring both narrative sequences and individual images reveals a tension in the books between past and present, and real and imagined. Where children’s texts tend to privilege Shakespeare, the man and his works, as inherently valuable, Rogers’s work complicates any sense of cultural value. Even as these picture books depend on a lexicon of Shakespearean images for meaning and coherence, they represent William Shakespeare as both an enemy to children (The Boy), and a national traitor (Midsummer). The protagonists, a boy in the first book and the bear he rescues in the second, effect political change by defeating Shakespeare. However, where these texts might seem to be activating a postcolonial cultural critique, this is complicated both by presumed readerly competence in authorized cultural discourses and by repeated affirmation of monarchies as ideal political systems. Power, then, in these picture books is at once rewarded and withheld, in a dialectic of (possibly postcolonial) agency, and (arguably colonial) subjection, even as they challenge dominant valuations of “Shakespeare” they do not challenge understandings of the “Child”.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 39102
Item Type: Conference Paper
Additional URLs:
Keywords: children's literature
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) (200502)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Literary Studies not elsewhere classified (200599)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Deposited On: 09 Dec 2010 13:15
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2010 13:15

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