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Literary Constructs of African American Childhood in the 1930's in American Children's Literature.

By Tammy Mielke

Abstract

This literary study presents an analysis of literary constructs of African American childhood in the 1930s in American children’s literature. The purpose for such a study is to determine, identify, and analyse the constructions of African American childhood offered in such books.\ud The critical approach employed involves theories based in post structuralism and post colonialism. The literary constructions of African American childhood are influenced by the society in which they were produced; hence this thesis includes a contextualisation of the historical time period in relationship to the works discussed. Furthermore, this thesis considers constructions offered through illustration in equal terms with textual constructions.\ud Representations of African American childhood are also presented through the use of dialect. The position adopted considers dialect as African American patois since such written dialect is pre-proscriptive African American Vernacular English rules. Analysis has been carried out of the ways in which language written in African American patois constructed African American childhood rather than focusing on the linguistic aspects of the written dialect.\ud Finally, four key texts, all written after 1965 and set in the 1930s have been evaluated: Sounder (1970) by William Armstrong, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry (1976) by Mildred Taylor, Tar Beach (1991) by Faith Ringgold, and Leon’s Story (1997) by Susan Roth. These contemporary writers offered a different view of the 1930s since they are ‘writing back’ into the previously assumed stereotypes.\ud In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates that in the 1930s, positive progression was achieved, bridging ideologies concerning the African American community fostered in the Harlem Renaissance and the search for African American identity for children and adults. While negative stereotypes established before the 1930s were included in some publications, defiance of mainstream views, resistance to overt racism, and a complication of representation of African American childhood is present in American children’s literature in the 1930s

Topics: PZ, PS
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.eprints.org:677

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