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(Un)doing gender : ways of being in an age of uncertainty

Mallan, Kerry M. (2012) (Un)doing gender : ways of being in an age of uncertainty. In What Do We Tell The Children? Critical Essays On Children's Literature. Cambridge Scholars Press.

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    Abstract

    Children’s literature has conventionally and historically been concerned with identity and the often tortuous journey to becoming a subject who is generally older and wiser, a journey typically characterised by mishap, adventure, and detours. Narrative closure in children’s and young adult novels and films typically provides a point of self-realisation or self-actualisation, whereby the struggles of finding one’s “true” identity have been overcome. In this familiar coming-of-age narrative, there is often an underlying premise of an essential self that will emerge or be uncovered. This kind of narrative resolution provides readers with a reassurance that things will work for the best in the end, which is an enduring feature of children’s literature, and part of liberal-humanism’s project of harmonious individuality. However, uncertainty is a constant that has always characterised the ways lives are lived, regardless of best-laid plans. Children’s literature provides a field of narrative knowledge whereby readers gain impressions of childhood and adolescence, or more specifically, knowledge of ways of being at a time in life, which is marked by uncertainty. Despite the prevalence of children’s texts which continue to offer normative ways of being, in particular, normative forms of gender behaviour, there are texts which resist the pull for characters to be “like everyone else” by exploring alternative subjectivities. Fiction, however, cannot be regarded as a source of evidence about the material realities of life, as its strength lies in its affective and imaginative dimensions, which nevertheless can offer readers moments of reflection, recognition, or, in some cases, reality lessons. As a form of cultural production, contemporary children’s literature is highly responsive to social change and political debates, and is crucially implicated in shaping the values, attitudes and behaviours of children and young people.

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    ID Code: 49385
    Item Type: Book Chapter
    Keywords: gender, sexuality, children's literature, homophobia
    ISBN: 9781443837880
    Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Gender Sexuality and Education (130308)
    Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000)
    Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
    Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
    Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Please consult the author.
    Deposited On: 28 Mar 2012 10:13
    Last Modified: 13 Mar 2013 08:57

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