Sunday, 15 December 2013

ABC blog: W

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W is for work. Not work as opposed to text in reader-oriented semiotics, but work as labour. I was once asked to contribute to a special issue of a journal on work in children's literature, and the main argument of my contribution was that very few children's literature children know what work is. When the issue appeared it was briefly reviewed online, and somebody who had only read the review emailed me in rage, enumerating all the examples of work... that I examined in my article. They didn't, however, mention the very best: Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence, where Mark Twain explains the difference between work and play better than anyone.

Work is not an exciting action in a story because is it monotonous and repetitive, and unless the text really needs to emphasise how monotonous, repetitive and exhausting it is, it may just mention that it took thirty years to build a city or three hours to hem a dress, but it won't describe every brick and every stitch, because it is boring. Most classical children's literature children are privileged middle class children and don't have to work. Even when they are poor they still have servants to do menial work. Today's children's literature children don't have to work because they go to school. There are many exceptions which I pointed out in my article that my opponent criticised without having read it.

W is also for witches and wizards, abundant in the kind of literature I have written extensively about, and mind, they had been around long before Hogwarts was invented.

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