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Title: Hidden economies in the novels of Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voigt
Author: Hardstaff, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 5495
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis is the first full-length comparative study of the work of Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voigt, two of the most important and critically-acclaimed authors of American children’s literature of the past fifty years. My corpus of texts consists of Taylor’s Logan family novels and Voigt’s Tillerman family novels. The primary aim of this research is: to compare Taylor’s and Voigt’s representation of character agency in the context of economic activity. The main theoretical aim of my study has thus been to develop an approach that allows for comparative critical analysis of the ways in which characters, especially child characters, operate as economic agents. The thesis combines ideas and methods from a range of disciplines, primarily children’s literature criticism, economic criticism and functional linguistics. The first three chapters of the thesis considers the agency of characters with respect to what might be thought of as conventional economic categories: production, consumption and circulation. The next two chapters focus on interactions between characters and social institutions, looking specifically at representations of healthcare, military service and the legal system within the novels. In the conclusion, I claim that my study shows the viability of economic criticism as a theoretical and methodological framework for children’s literature criticism, as well as summarising specific claims about Taylor’s and Voigt’s representations of child agency in encounters with both material and symbolic economies, and the ideological implications of these representations. I further hope that this research provides support for comparative studies that put seemingly disparate texts in conversation with one another, beyond using them as exemplars of some broader claims or theoretical propositions. I end the thesis with a practical coda that outlines some of the major ideological tensions between the original texts and their use by teachers and publishers.
Supervisor: Nikolajeva, Maria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: children's literature ; economic criticism ; agency ; race and class ; Logan novels ; Tillerman novels