Representation and reception : an oral history of gender in British children's story papers, comics and magazines in the 1940s and 1950s
This thesis explores the representation and reception of gender in British children's reading material during the 1940s and 1950s. Chapter One traces the methods and concepts I have used to investigate an audience history of reading. The relationship between gender and memory in oral history and the uses of audience reception theory are considered. Chapter Two considers schoolboy story papers and comics and the tension between middle-class and working-class masculinities presented in the material. Chapter Three focuses on the changing representations of femininity in three groups of material for girls: the schoolgirl story paper and comic; 'erotic bloods'; and women's service magazines. Chapters Four and Five reposition the actual readers at the centre of the text using oral testimony gathered in Glasgow and Mass-Observation replies to a directive on childhood reading. Chapter Four focuses on the memories of male narrators' reading experiences as young boys. The chapter considers the relationship between class and masculinity as experienced and identified by the readers in response to characters from the story papers and comics. Chapter Five is divided into two sections. The first considers women's memories of reading story papers and comics intended for both schoolgirls and schoolboys. The second section considers women's memories of reading older women's magazines at a young age to negotiate the transition from girlhood to womanhood. In addition Chapters Four and Five reflect upon wider activities associated with reading such as the acquisition of papers, the place of reading and the games and roles developed from the material. The gendered myth systems surrounding the activity of reading and how female and male readers negotiated, accepted and rejected these myths are also considered. In conclusion this thesis addresses the relative 'absence' of children's reading culture from earlier work in cultural historical studies, a cross-gendered consideration of popular childhood reading material and the wider relationship between gender and memory in oral history.