• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 4 comments on Looking at Children’s Lit in a New Way

  1. I am scared that my 7 year old daughter will someday be taught by professors that have too much time on their hands. To derive social and economic issues out of childrens fairy tales. Would you rather have them read more progressive themed children’s story’s so that professors can mold thier little minds into a liberal view of life that you may hold. Shame on you! I read those books that you mentioned and never thought that there authors had a motive. And any morals that were implied in these are positive. Should children try to be good and behave.

    1. Studies of literature are always subversive to those who desire fantasy and escapism. Even the literature of the old canon (Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton) asked readers to challenge the rules of their world and advocate for justice. But, pure enjoyment and the achievement of a moral value are simply one lens through which to read what is deemed “children’s literature”. Yet, children’s literature never truly was intended just for children and their limited sensibilities; the Grimm brothers did not market their wares to children. Charles Perrault, writing what would become the foundation of the fairy tale in the 17th century, wrote the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella to be didactic: to teach his daughters good moral values about behavior. Yet, moral codes are a product of the social ethos of the day and, consequently, reflect the value system and politics of the society they are born in. Because many in positions of power sought to diminish the free-thinking of citizens, writers like Perrault in France, and later the Grimm Brothers in Germany and Hans Christian Anderson in Denmark, wrote their messages under the seemingly benign genre of the fairy story, thus diminishing the powers that were’s ability to condemn their works. Hence, the works and their ideas were spread and read.
      If my daughters were fortunate enough to be taught by professors unafraid to engage with the allegorical fairy stories of today–like the adventures of Harry Potter–I would be overjoyed: how else could they engage with their world effectively and with sophistication in order to successfully do something like vote, hold down a job, advocate for themselves, demand fairness and justice to essentially survive and improve the world?

      1. As a doctor, I would hope you would try to avoid absolutes such as “always”. Your assertion in the first sentence is OFTEN true, but sweeping generalizations should typically be avoided. I’m sure you know this.

        Children’s literature has so much to teach all of us. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” has as much relevance for BU grads as it does for 3-year-olds. I do agree with you that children’s literature is much more than brain candy as Ed Earle suggests. It is rich in lessons of this wonderful, adventurous gift we all life.

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