Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The nineteenth century marks the emergence of a new literary market directed at the entertainment of children. However, a dichotomy exists concerning the image of childhood. Adults tended to idolize childhood in literature to reflect on their own lives ignoring the needs of children to possess an identity of their own. Essentially children are shadows of adults. Examinations of the shadows of childhood—children as shadows of adults, children shadowed by adults, the shadows as identifying children, and the shadows children themselves cast—lead to a discussion of agency over childhood. Lewis Carroll, entering this new literary market with his Alice series, identifies the misconceptions of childhood calling attention to the shadowed truth in his photography, illustrations and literature. This dissertation integrates psychological, cultural, visual and linguistic analysis in an effort to create a lens through which we can expand our understanding of children and literature written for and about children. Specifically, Lewis Carroll’s Alice series serves as an exemplary text on which to base discussions of childhood and the child-literary audience in relation to children as muses for poetry, photographic subjects, illustrated figures, and literary characters. Examining eighteenth- and nineteenth-century education manuals as well as the romantic works of William Blake and William Wordsworth, I trace the various forms of shadows used to discuss childhood. I call on the theories of Perry Nodelman, Lev Vygotsky, Benjamin Lee Whorf, and Sigmund Freud to conclude that Carroll uses these shadows to dispel previous notions of children but also to empower the nineteenth-century child in his photography, illustrations, and Alice books. Furthermore, I extend this lens to discuss images of children in the twentieth and twenty-first century texts of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events series to argue that contemporary literature for children maintains these shadows which cast darkness on harsher realities from which children need to escape.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Jim S. Borck