Adultness in children's literature: toward the awareness of adults' presence in children's literature

Semizu, Yukino (2013) Adultness in children's literature: toward the awareness of adults' presence in children's literature. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (1MB) | Preview


This study focuses on the notion that adults’ response to children’s literature is profoundly different from that of children, and aims to identify a pattern in texts by which adults’ response can be systematically explained. The study suggests that adults respond to certain elements in the text that resonate with their assumptions about children’s literature. On this basis, the concept of adultness is introduced to refer to these textual elements, and the way in which they can be identified in the narrative is investigated. This study concentrates on literary books, mostly published after 1960, since the issues discussed are more directly relevant to literary works than to popular fiction or classic children’s literature.

Brief surveys of historical development of children’s literature and changes in the social perceptions about the relationships between adults and children are undertaken in order to understand the backgrounds of adults’ assumptions about children’s literature. Discussions about adults’ perceptions of children’s literature today are also reviewed.

Texts from a wide range of children’s literature are examined within the theoretical framework of narratology with a particular reference to the functions of the narrator. The examination has identified two types of adultness: direct adultness which is largely related to adults’ ideas about childhood, and indirect adultness which is related to adults’ interest in what may be relevant to the child readers of the book. The third type of adultness is termed as Haddon’s ring, which refers to the textual features that are used by authors to keep the narrative safe for child readers. It can be used without losing the narrative integrity or it can be used to manipulate the narrative development.

The study concludes that adults’ response could be explained by referring to the three types of adultness. Adultness can be broadly understood in terms of the textual signs that indicate the presence of the mutual understanding between the author and the adult reader on what has been left out from the text and why the author has held it back.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Thompson, J.P.
Keywords: children's literature
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
P Language and literature > PN Literature (General) > PN 80 Criticism
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 13130
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2013 09:42
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 05:27

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View