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DOKTORSRITGERÐ - PhD THESIS

 

Available for viewing
My doctoral thesis, "History, Landscape and National Identity: A Comparative Study of Contemporary English and Icelandic Children's Literature" is available here. PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHT. I would be happy to know if you plan to quote the thesis, so please notify me if you do. Click on the Adobe icon to view in Adobe Acrobat (1.69 MB).

The title of my thesis is:
"History, Landscape and National Identity: A Comparative Study of Contemporary English and Icelandic Children's Literature." University College Worcester, 1999.

Aims
To produce a comparative analysis of contemporary Icelandic and English children's literature (1968-1998). The comparison will be based on a discussion and analysis of the following:

a) the central concerns of both literatures through a new historicist perspective, looking at the relationship between children's literature and cultural change (i.e. socio-cultural values as represented in children's literature).

b) the interrelationship between cultural identity and national landscape (both physical and imaginary), and the role of heritage and nostalgia in the formation of identity.

c) the relationship between national identity and writing for children, in particular the difference between a large, multicultural population as represented in English writing for children and a small, mostly homogenous population, as in Icelandic writing for children.

Relationship to previous work (Footnotes listed in "Key References" section, next page)

Although there has been an interrelationship between England and Iceland since the last century, both political-Iceland was occupied by the British in 1940-and academic, as William Morris' Journals (1871-73) and Auden & MacNeice's Letters (1937) show, no direct literary comparison has been made between Icelandic and English children's books. Granted, each of the three topics suggested in my proposed thesis (history, landscape & cultural identity) have been widely discussed as regards English literature. However, the unique parameters of this comparative study between two countries with very different histories and landscapes will result in a new area of analysis from a different perspective, adding to the debate on English Children's Literature and initiating the debate regarding Icelandic Children's Literature.

The key references relating to each of the three topics are these:


a) The influence of historical and social changes is discussed in D. Butts' Stories and Society: Children's Literature in its Social Context (1992).1 The Icelandic position is considered by Silja Adalsteinsdottir in Íslenskar barnabækur (1981)2, but only as far as 1979.

b) The connection between literature and landscape is discussed in Writing Worlds: Discourse, Text and Metaphor in the Representation of Landscape, ed. by T.J. Barnes and J.S. Duncan (1992).3 Tony Watkins centres children's literature in the discussion of landscape in "Reconstructing the Homeland: Loss and Hope in the English Landscape" (1995)4, linking it with the concepts of "heritage" and "nostalgia".

c) There is a growing body of work on cultural identity and literary studies, e.g. M.S.G. Hawkins' "Intertextuality and Cultural Identity: A Bibliographic Essay" (1993).5 Sandra J. Williams interrogates the relationship between cultural identity and children's books in her PhD thesis, "An Analysis of the Readings of Cultural Indicators Embedded in Children's Literature Texts" (1998).6

Methodology
The thesis will combine new historicist and post-colonialist literary perspectives to produce a comparative study, incorporating the material base and historical contexts with literary analysis. It is recognized that the publication output of English children's books is vast; however, this is not so for the Icelandic situation - mainly because the total population of the country is less than 250,000. Out of approx. 150 published Icelandic children's books pr. year, only 50 are original (the others have been translated or reprinted). Samples will be selected out of these 1,500 books (from a 30-year period) for a comparison with an equal number of English books to support the argument. In accordance with the aims (above), the work is divided into three main topics, which logically interact:

3.1. History. My point of insertion into the histories of English and Icelandic children's literature is in the late 1780's when the first Icelandic children's book was published, providing an overview leading to a focussed discussion of 1968 to 1998. Tony Watkins' "Cultural Studies, New Historicism and Children's Literature" (1992)7 and John Stephens' Language and Ideology in Children's Literature (1992)8 will be taken as models. Since Iceland was a colonised country until 1944 and England an imperial power, a post-colonial perspective is pertinent, referring to, amongst other works, Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism (1993).9

3.2. Landscape. E.Carter's Space and Place: Theories of Identity and Location (1993)10 provides a model to discuss the interrelationship between landscape and literature.

3.3. Cultural identity. Sandra J. Williams' PhD thesis6 is an important methodological model for the analysis of cultural identity in children's literature.


Phasing/time scales

As this is a comparative study, the location is split between Iceland and England.

Phase I UNIVERSITY COLLEGE WORCESTER Months 1-12
Study of literary theory; theoretical perspectives; location and analysis of English sources under the headings of history, landscape, cultural identity and national identity.

Phase II THE UNIVERSITY & NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ICELAND Months 12-24
Location and analysis of Icelandic sources under the headings of history, landscape, cultural identity and national identity.

Phase III UNIVERSITY COLLEGE WORCESTER Months 25-36 Comparative analysis and writing up and completion of the thesis.


Key references

1) Butts, Dennis (ed). Stories and Society: Children's Literature in its Social Context. London, Macmillan, 1992. 2) Adalsteinsdóttir, Silja. Íslenskar barnabækur 1780-1979 (Icelandic Children's Books 1780-1979). Reykjavík: Mál og menning, 1981.
3) Barnes, Trevor J. and James S. Duncan, eds. Writing Worlds: Discourse, Text and Metaphor in the Representation of Landscape. London: Routledge, 1992.
4) Watkins, Tony. "Reconstructing the Homeland: Loss and Hope in the English Landscape," in Aspects and Issues in the History of Children's Literature, ed. Maria Nikolajeva, 165-72. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995.
5) Hawkins, Maureen S. G. "Intertextuality and Cultural Identity: A Bibliographic Essay," in Global Perspectives on Teaching Literature: Shared Visions and Distinctive Visions, eds. Sandra W. Lott et al., 264-92. Urbana, IL: Nat. Council of Teachers of English, 1993.
6) Williams, Sandra J. "An Analysis of the Readings of Cultural Indicators Embedded in Children's Literature Texts." PhD diss., University College Worcester, 1998.
7) Watkins, Tony. "Cultural Studies, New Historicism and Children's Literature," in Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism, ed. Peter Hunt, 173-195. London: Routledge, 1992,
8) Stephens, John. Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction. London: Longman, 1992.
9) Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf, 1993.
10) Carter, Erica (ed). Space and Place: Theories of Identity and Location. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1993.


 

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