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Title:The Republic and its children: French children's literature, 1855-1900
Author(s):May, Michele A.
Director of Research:Micale, Mark S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Micale, Mark S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Crowston, Clare H.; Chaplin, Tamara; Hearne, Elizabeth G.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):children's literature
nineteenth-century France
French republicanism
republican political culture
French Third Republic
Second Empire
Abstract:This is a study of the unique evolution of French children’s literature during the second half of the nineteenth century. Within the turbulence of the political changes that took place during the Second Republic, the Second Empire and the watershed events leading to the establishment of France’s Third Republic in September 1870, a distinctive genre of children’s literature took root in France. Editors, authors and illustrators who had vested political and pedagogical interests in the nation’s present and future – its children – developed this literature. Based largely on existing narrative models, the reading material produced for children between 1855 and the 1890s was at once educational and entertaining. Designed to be read at home, it served as an extension of and supplement to the nation’s educational programs and fundamentally contributed to the elaboration of republican political culture with its messages of individualism, a belief in progress, and the promotion of secular values. The reasons that it developed in this way are basically two. In part throughout the nineteenth-century French authors continued to produce didactic children’s books because historically these texts drew on the precedents of religious education works. The other part was the practical existing circumstances in which textbook publishers branched out into the realm of publishing leisure reading material for children. Based in part on the cultural belief that heart-felt messages were best conveyed within the domestic realm, publishers intentionally targeted the home environment – through both content and publishing strategies. By 1870, specialized publishers produced significant numbers of children’s books which made their way into the majority of middle-class French homes. Significantly, as a result of the traumatic events of 1870-1871 – military defeat by Prussia and the Paris Commune – when the nation of France suffered military, political, and moral crises, the content of children’s literature changed markedly; it became increasingly propagandistic, militaristic and nationalistic, and revanchiste. These elements thus combined with more democratic republican values to create the whole heritage of nineteenth-century French republican political culture.
Issue Date:2011-01-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Michele Ann May
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-01-14
Date Deposited:December 2

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