Do Not Read Beyond This Page: Postmodernism For Children - A stylistic examination of postmodern and metafictive strategies in children’s middle grade fiction

Wydrzynska, Ela (2023) Do Not Read Beyond This Page: Postmodernism For Children - A stylistic examination of postmodern and metafictive strategies in children’s middle grade fiction. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis offers an extensive stylistic analysis of postmodern and metafictive devices in contemporary middle grade fiction (for readers aged approximately 8-12 years). Although terms like postmodernism and metafiction are often deemed culturally ‘highbrow’ or ‘avant-garde’, such strategies are rife in children’s literature to the point at which they can now be considered mainstream. This is evidenced through the examination of three best-selling children’s authors: recent UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, ‘celebrity author’ Tom Fletcher, and experimental writer Pseudonymous Bosch. In addition to their commercial success with the target readership, all three of these authors deploy a plethora of sophisticated postmodern and metafictive strategies in their books, creating complex narrative structures that rival the most acclaimed canonical literature and push the limits of existing narratological terminology.

Taking the over-obtrusive, visibly inventing postmodern narrator as its analytical base, this thesis examines how metafiction lays bare the construction of narrative and therein furthers the identification of an explicit composition-world through which the text’s contextual creation is playfully mediated. It is from this composition-world that the overt storyteller (or internal author) of the text engages in direct, spontaneous conversation with the real reader, metaleptically blurring reality and fiction, and dramatising child-readers as active participants in the reading process and meaning-making to increase readerly engagement, comprehension and enjoyment.

Through this analysis, I argue that children’s literature ought to be considered not just within the traditional frame of pedagogy, but also for its academic and artistic value as literature in its own right. Crucially, this thesis refutes adult preconceptions that children’s books are necessarily ‘easy’ or ‘simple’. By focusing on two theoretical concepts that many adult readers themselves find difficult to navigate, I demonstrate that children’s literature is capable of far more than most people give it credit for – as are child-readers themselves.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sotirova, Violeta
Stockwell, Peter
Keywords: postmodernism, metafiction, children's literature, middle grade fiction, stylistics, narratology, narrators, internal author, composition-world, fictive reader, real reader, child-readers, metalepsis
Subjects: P Language and literature > PN Literature (General) > PN 80 Criticism
P Language and literature > PR English literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 76460
Depositing User: Wydrzynska, Ela
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2023 10:01
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 10:01

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