chapter  5
12 Pages

The Discovery of Children: The Origins of Zhou Zuoren’s Thoughts on “Humane Literature”

Analyzing Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain in terms of imaging the American child is a challenging task because the books that comprise them are so very British. The term 'Middle Ages' is an entirely European one, invented by European humanists in the sixteenth century as derogatory, the bridge between the golden ages of classical Greece and Rome and the new Golden Age that, with more than moderate self-congratulation, they termed the 'Renaissance' or 'new birth' of culture. Alexander, sporting a Welsh first name, was born in Philadelphia in 1924. Like the Chinese writer Lu Xun, whose family also suffered financial problems, Alexander experienced hardship during his formative years. Though it must of course be nuanced by the harsh historical realities of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American capitalism and the emergence of wealth-based surrogate nobility, American self-imaging nevertheless often involves narratives where one may rise economically or socially based on individual merit rather than inherited privilege.