This thesis challenges the idea that children’s literature is an inherently colonising act. By applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of dialogism and the carnivalesque to the nonsense literature of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, I show that children’s texts can be read as non-colonising. A dialogic reading of Edward Lear’s limericks and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books shows that these texts are non-colonising and emancipatory because they do not promote one worldview or impose a concept of the essentialised child onto the reader. Instead, they challenge the arbitrary boundaries established and maintained by tools such as language and threats of social judgement that support imperial dichotomies of self and other. I also show how the discourse surrounding children’s literature perpetuates a “politics of innocence” concerning a dominant social concept of the child. This discourse encourages purposive adaptations of children’s books, in this case, Lear’s and Carroll’s nonsense texts, that are more colonising than the original texts.
University of Newcastle Research Higher Degree Thesis