Lindsay Allen – Finding Identity in Ruins: Post-War Children’s literature

Event date:1 March 2011 10.30 – 17.00
British Library
London Room MR4



The Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC) at
Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Civilizational Collapse: Dystopian Imaginings of the Past,
Present, and Future (1880 – Present)


Lindsay AllenFinding Identity in Ruins: Post-War Children’s literature

In the immediate post-war period, the ruin provided a scene in which the past was lost (and discovered) and in which identities could be found (once lost). In Nesbitt’s writings, the ruins of old London created a template of a shared history which stretched back to Rome and united an almost lost and disparate world in a recognition of a shared remote past (and one that had in itself fallen). Whereas London was destroyed, and the places and buildings were losing that identity, it was also exposing an archaeology of identity. But if that archaeology could not be read, children could find identity anew in playing among the ruins. This rediscovery of identity was clearly feature of the Narnia series, in which a return to and escape from the ruin was a common feature. In these moments, history was almost remembered and recovered, and identity revived. This was an identity which was remote from parental influences and sometimes alone, and thus apart from a civilization that functioned. The Child-Adult-Hero never quite grew up to accept the confines of time.




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