Children's literature: Vehicle for the transmission of national culture and identity or the victim of mass-market globalisation?

Year: 2001

Author: Bainbridge, Joyce, Thistleton-Martin, Judy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The history of children's literature in both Australia and Canada reflects a shared colonial past, evidenced through the development of individual national identities. Research into the relationship between Australian and Canadian children's literature, exemplified through the similarities and differences in the construction of those identities, is virtually unknown.

Diakiw (1997) argues that there are powerful commonplaces in the construction of culture and identity, shared values that can be identified and revealed through story and literature. Schools too provide an important forum where these commonplaces can be explored, discussed and debated. This paper will use, as its framework, the ten commonplaces proposed by Diakiw, to explore the connection between Australian and Canadian identity, children’s literature and the classroom.

Through a selection of Canadian and Australian children's literature, the distinction between commerce and culture will also be examined. Australian and Canadian children’s book publishers, constantly make decisions about accepting the rhetoric of globalisation or maintaining national and local differences. Such decisions create tensions between ‘cultural value’ and the ‘market’, where text and audience become part of the wider context of industrial and professional production. The implications of these decisions will also be discussed.