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Rustin, M. (1985). A Defence of Children's Fiction: Another Reading of Peter Pan. Free Associations, 1C(2):128-148.

(1985). Free Associations, 1C(2):128-148

A Defence of Children's Fiction: Another Reading of Peter Pan

Michael Rustin

This article is a critical discussion of Jacqueline Rose's recent book The Case of Peter Pan, or the Impossibility of Children's Fiction (see also Rose and Mitchell). It argues by contrast with her that children's fiction is both ‘possible’ and desirable, and offers an alternative reading of Peter Pan in order to substantiate this view.

In The Case of Peter Pan, Rose argues from an implicitly Lacanian psychoanalytic point of view that the idea of children's fiction (in the sense of fiction written by adults for children) is misconceived. The theoretical basis for this view is the idea that the language of children's fiction is constructed by adults. It therefore, or so Rose believes, categorizes children in necessarily fixed ways, and through readers' emotional identification with fictional characters seeks to construct their social identities (an example might be gender) according to adult definitions. The development of children's fiction in the twentieth century has been dominated by two additional ideologies, Rose suggests. One of these is merely utilitarian, and places emphasis on ‘correct English’ and comprehension skills. The other is ‘romantic’ and involves humanist and moralistic ideas of ‘creativity’.

Children's fiction seems to be circumscribed by a moralism which goes way beyond the more transparent didacticism and pedagogy of its earliest modes, and into the heart of writing. I would call it an ethos of representation, characterized by its basic demand for identity in language, that is, for language as a means to identity and self-recognition (Rose, 139).

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