"Just Breathing Isn't Living": Disability and Constructions of Normalcy in Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature

  • Author / Creator
    Lalani, Tia I
  • This study seeks to demonstrate the ways in which disability is negatively and stereotypically presented in classic children’s literature and how it is used to prescribe constructions of normalcy. Although disability studies have become an increasingly popular avenue for critical study, one glaring omission is its use in analyzing children’s literature. Representations of disability pervade nineteenth and early twentieth-century children’s literature especially, and classic children’s texts that continue to be read widely today, like Pollyanna, The Secret Garden, Heidi and What Katy Did, all include disabled characters. These texts reinforce normalcy through the prescription of certain gender roles, specific moral and ethical behavior and through the use of nature as a space of healing for disabled characters who often must undergo a miracle cure. My thesis will explore how early children’s literature functions as a point of origin for the construction of social attitudes and behaviors surrounding gender and moral normativity, as well as conceptions of disability.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Wiesenthal, Christine (English and Film Studies)
    • Sywenky, Irene (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Hurley, Natasha (English and Film Studies)