Uncharted Depths
Descent Narratives in English and French Children’s Literature

Kiera Vaclavik

Legenda (General Series)

Legenda

6 September 2010  •  148pp

ISBN: 978-1-906540-39-5 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ModernFrenchEnglishFictionChildren


The descent to the underworld is one of our oldest stories. It recurs in the most influential texts of early European literature - the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Inferno - and no less so in the classics of children’s literature. Vaclavik shows that retellings for young readers certainly shift emphases, working the legend through transformations of all kinds, but also that much of the traditional katabasis story remains firmly in place.

The critical study of children's literature remains a relatively new field, in which such fundamental presences have gone largely unnoticed. As Vaclavik demonstrates, many novels which remain lively and resonant for adult readers richly repay critical attention. And if the incomparable explorer's tales of Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Hector Malot and even Lewis Carroll have proved durable beyond all expectations, one reason may be that there is no lure like that of the underworld, and none harder to escape.

Kiera Vaclavik is Lecturer in French and Comparative Literature at Queen Mary, University of London.

Reviews:

  • ‘Seeks to draw new attention to the complexity and critical importance of nineteenth-century writing for children, and, indeed, to defend children’s literature more generally as a serious object of study... The volume’s moves through Homer, Virgil, and Dante are very rewarding.’ — Emma Wilson, French Studies 65.3, July 2011, 410-11
  • ‘This strong study leaves very little to be desired... The precision and the originality of Vaclavik’s views opens up a wide-range of new questions.’ — Nicole Biagioli, International Research Society for Children's Literature online
  • ‘By the end of the book it is clear that when we look at the role of the Underworld in children’s literature, we are in no way descending in status. Rather, we are reminded not only of the vital role played by children’s books in shaping the Homers, Virgils and Dantes of successive generations, but also of the fact that, to date, children’s literature has been a significant lacuna in the reception studies of these authors. Vaclavik’s elegant book plays an admirable role in filling that gap.’ — Fiona Cox, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.07.25

Bibliography entry:

Vaclavik, Kiera, Uncharted Depths: Descent Narratives in English and French Children’s Literature (Cambridge: Legenda, 2010)

First footnote reference: 35 Kiera Vaclavik, Uncharted Depths: Descent Narratives in English and French Children’s Literature (Cambridge: Legenda, 2010), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Vaclavik, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Vaclavik, Kiera. 2010. Uncharted Depths: Descent Narratives in English and French Children’s Literature (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Vaclavik 2010: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Vaclavik 2010: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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