The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 16, No 1 (2012)

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TLG 16.1 Introduction

Frame of Reference


Introduction - Self and Society, inside and outside a book

David Beagley


A sad note on which to start on this issue: The Looking Glass has lost one of its earliest and hardest working supporters. Allen Briggs was the technical mind behind the first versions of this journal when it began in 1997. He built and managed the websites that carried The Looking Glass for its first 10 years and put in countless hours doing the work at which we wordsmiths and academics usually shake (or bury) our heads and call desperately for help. Well, Allen WAS The Help, and his efforts in getting The Looking Glass established and available all over the world will certainly be remembered and appreciated. Our sympathies go out to Elizabeth Pandolfo Briggs at her personal loss, and we hope that continuing Allen's work will be a small reminder of how we are indebted to him.

In any community, all members should be regarded and held in appropriate esteem. That has been an essential element of our social fabric

In the 18th century, Jean Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract expressed the idea that communities are made up of individuals who must reach agreement about the limits to their individual freedoms that come from their communal responsibilities. While Self and Identity are personal features of every individual, they are also clearly displayed in the Public Sphere. Trying to get the balance right between personal self-image and public expression of identity gives us manners, decorum, etiquette and politeness, but it also creates protocols and customs and fashions, and causes embarrassment, gaffes, shyness and rudeness.

This issue's offerings consider this nexus between public and private identities, how one's self can be displayed or might be hidden as a way of facing the world. In Alice's Academy, Saradindu Bhattacharya considers Voldemort as a Public Figure in "Demons and Demos: Voldemort, Democracy and Celebrity Culture", arguing that the creation of his criminal notoriety is as much a feature of that public world as it is inherent in the individual. His labelling as, ironically, "He who must not be named" is an advertising slogan par excellence, demanding rather than avoiding the audience's attention.

In Emerging Voices, Brandy Isaacs also explores Voldemort's public criminal expression in "I May Not Know Who I Am, But I Know Who I'm Not: Self-Awareness and Actualization in the Harry Potter Series". Here, his choices are used to map the development of what is perceived as an 'evil' life, and uses a psychological frame of social perspective, rather than a religious/moral one, to explore that development.

Also in Emerging Voices, existence and relationship in a very different secret world is the focus of Sandra Nickel's "Inescapable Coexistence: Animals and Humans in The Secret Garden". Personified characteristics of the animals and birds are not only an authorial device to move the action along, but enable Mary, Colin and Dickon to understand both their humanity and their inescapable connection to the natural world. Anthropomorphic fauna and zoomorphic people create a fascinating counterpoint.

Nancy McCabe reflects on key titles in her childhood reading experiences and their interaction with her (and any reader's) construction of self in "Rereading Childhood: journeys into female imagination" in Jabberwocky. Stereotypically gendered representations, both female and male, may be recognized and resisted but they are certainly powerful, even in classics!

Reviewed in Curiouser and Curiouser is Abate and Kidd's Over the Rainbow: Queer children's and young adult literature which also tracks a history of reading, in this case texts presenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer themes. The influence of their reading (often as an escape from harsher realities) on the tentatively growing self image and often brutal social categorization of young readers is clearly and cogently examined.

The Sydney Taylor Book Awards for 2012 are also noted in Curiouser and Curiouser. If readers wish to promote, or simply announce, similar awards or events, please feel free to contact The Editor with details. Allowing that we need several months lead time, we are always ready to advance the cause of good reading by young readers!

Reading is, in its initial practice, a solo and private activity that allows readers to immerse themselves in the world presented in the book before them. But it it also a deeply social activity that reflects and considers, even challenges, the world in which those readers live. Just as a reader makes decisions about a story and its characters in its world, the story and its characters can also ask who the reader really is in the reader's world.

So, as you question, please enjoy this issue of The Looking Glass.

 

David Beagley
General Editor - The Looking Glass


Volume 16, Issue 1, The Looking Glass, January/February 2012

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"Frame of Reference -Introduction - Self and Society, inside and outside a book" © David Beagley, 2012
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680