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Issue Details: First known date: 1998... vol. 8 no. 3 December 1998 of Papers : Explorations into Children's Literature est. 1990 Papers : Explorations into Children's Literature
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  • Contents indexed selectively.


* Contents derived from the 1998 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Metafictional Play in Children's Fiction, Ann L. Grieve , single work criticism

Grieve examines the role of metafiction in children's literature and its reliance on reader participation and interaction, by looking at textual strategies that construct the 'game' as text or fiction. These strategies include structuring the narrative around the rules of an actual game, constructing either the physical book or the text as a game, and/or representing characters as 'players in a game' (5). The discussion is a response to critics who question the value of child-focused metafictional texts and of narrative techniques that demystify fictional illusions (such as multiple narrative endings, unreliable narrators and characters, linguistic play, and the reworking of established literary codes and conventions through parody and intertextuality).

Grieve explores a number of texts based on the 'interrogative or metafictional play' and self-reflexivity the narratives offer, which, she argues, 'makes the reader aware of the interplay between reality and illusion' (6). As well as novels from the UK and the USA, Grieves discusses a number of Australian texts: Power and Glory (Emily Rodda and Geoff Kelly), Beyond the Labyrinth (Gillian Rubinstein), Inventing Anthony West (Gary Crew), and The Water Tower (Gary Crew and Steven Woolman).

Metafiction challenges the dominant humanist literary tradition, which posits 'stable, knowable texts' (5), by 'problematizing mimetic illusion' and questioning the 'nature and existence of reality, the creation of literary universes and the nature of human artefacts' (13). This is the value of metafictive narratives for children that Grieve elucidates and ultimately supports.

(p. 5-15)
Representations of the 'Absent Mother' in Australian Adolescent Fiction, Diana Beere , single work criticism
Beere analyses the ways in which the 'absent mother' is represented in the novel Galax-Arena and the short story 'Andrew', from the collection, Love Me, Love Me Not. (These monograph titles were shortlisted for the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards in 1992 and 1993 respectively). Beer's argument is that in recent fictions for children and adolescents, representations of the 'absent mother' continue to maintain and support dominant patrirachal constructions of motherhood which fundamentally categorize women within a rigid dualistic system of signification. Beere's reading of Galax-Arena looks at how literal and metaphorical representations of the absent mother - ie. contemporary society as 'bad parent' (19), are closely associated with biological femininity. By contrast, she argues that the short story 'Andrew' offers a more positive representation which challenges prevailing ideologies of motherhood that construct 'absent mothers' as only a negative force in the lives of children (22). Despite signs of resistance in some narratives, Beere concludes that the either/or subject positioning of women as good mothers or bad mothers is part of the post-feminist 'backlash' (22), which continues 'to limit the range of legitimate identities available to women and girls and hence to undermine the achievements of contemporary feminist movements' (17). She ends her critique by questioning the implications of 'conventional normative versions of motherhood' in relation to the judging of children's literature and the awards merited by the Children's Book Council of Australia.
(p. 16-24)
Writing on the Edge: Gary Crew's Fiction, Alice Mills , single work criticism
Mills gives an overview of Australian author Gary Crew's work, which she describes as 'characterized by doubt' and offering endings which remain unresolved rather than the formulaic 'happy endings' which permeate conventional children's stories (25). Crew has won many literary awards for his children's fiction, however his stories are decidely ambiguous and post-modern in their 'celebration of doubt' (34), which attracts criticism on the grounds that the texts are too 'difficult and demanding for young children' (25). Mills offers a succinct and insightful discussion which explores how Crew's narratives of child-adolescent maturation play with the conventions of the gothic-horror genre by refusing 'the guarantee of a revelation to come' (34). Mills says 'At his strongest, he brings to the reader's notice the human need to make sense of the world. The power of his fiction derives not from him meeting such needs but from playing upon them' (25).
(p. 25-35)
Competing Discourses in 'The Kangaroo Hunters', Robin Pope , single work criticism

Pope's detailed analysis of the novel, The Kangaroo Hunters, or, Adventures in the Bush, contends that while author Bowman 'makes her protest about received ideas regarding masculinity and empire, it is a modified statement which is itself subverted by the power of the dominant discourses which construct imperial discourse.' (46). Pope discusses the composition of Bowman's fictive constructions arguing that stories offer 'moral' truths rather than verifiable truths or probabilities and links this to the tendency of women writers to (traditionally) write in genres in which the 'truth status of the work was less questioned', such as nursery rhymes and fairy tales. In 1858, women writing about travel adventures for the young was rare and 'probably risky' considering that 'accounts of travel which demonstrated women as confronting and overcoming difficult circumstances in their own were presumed to be lies or gross exaggerations' (36-37). Pope critiques the text from the position that 'within imperial discourse other discourses circulate within their own systematic sets of ideas' and establishes how Bowman engages with discourses of race and (white) racial superiority, religion and Christianity, science and class in ways which 'frequently exceed or transgress the limits and conventions of what was accepted at the time' (37). However Pope argues that the discursive frameworks which the text attempts to challenge ultimately prevail in reinforcing the fundamental ideologies of masculine dominance (46).

(p. 36-46)

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Last amended 22 Aug 2002 16:23:21