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Gender and irony: children's literature and its criticism

Walsh, S. ORCID: (2016) Gender and irony: children's literature and its criticism. Asian Women, 32 (2). pp. 91-110. ISSN 1225-925X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.14431/aw.2016.


In Under Western Eyes (1911), Joseph Conrad writes that “women, children, and revolutionists hate irony, which is the negation of all saving instincts, of all faith, of all devotion, of all actions”. Here a connection between “women”, “children” and “revolutionists” is asserted on the grounds of a shared attitude to language; but what is the nature or cause of this presumed antipathy to irony? I will argue that the answers to this question have to do with what irony as a mode implies about language on the one hand, and with what the investments of “revolutionists” are in the categories of “women” and “children” on the other. These three identities are constructed in Conrad’s formulation as literal-minded, demanding a language that straightforwardly means what it says, and yet irony necessarily disrupts and undermines such notions of a literal language with a direct and unmediated relationship to the real world. Furthermore, as Jacqueline Rose has argued (1984), this stance can be found operating in the same way in relation to ideas of childhood and irony in children’s literature criticism. That such a stance is not inevitable for either feminism or children’s literature criticism will be argued by looking at parallels between feminist/queer theory and the approach to children’s literature criticism of the “Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL)”, at the University of Reading, England.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Identities
ID Code:66210
Publisher:The Research Institute of Asian Women, Sookmyung University, Seoul, Korea


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