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Men in Wonderland


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi INTRODUCTION 3 CHAPTER ONE Of Prisons and ngrown Girls: Wordsworth, De Quincey, and Constructions of the Lost Self of Childhood 16 CHAPTER TWO The Ideal Girl in Industrial England 46 CHAPTER THREE The Stones of Childhood: Ruskin's "Lost Jewels" 94 CHAPTER FOUR Lewis Carroll and the Little Girl: The Art of Self-Effacement 129 CHAPTER FIVE A "New 'Cry of the Children' ": Legislating Innocence in the 1880s 154 APPENDIX Lewis Carroll's Letter to the St. James's Gazette, July 22, 1885 195 Notes 199 Works Cited 231 Index 243

Promotional Information

Catherine Robson offers an argument that is audacious, compelling, and new. The cult of the girl is a topic that will attract attention. By exploring 'girl worship' among various canonical authors across a long period, this book will appeal to a broad audience. Men in Wonderland is a pleasure to read. -- Pamela K. Gilbert, University of Florida In this lively and provocative study, Catherine Robson deftly explores the work of masculine anxiety in shaping Victorian ideals of girlhood. With a wide range of incisive analysis, and a good deal of wry yet sympathetic wit, Men in Wonderland discovers a wealth of surprises in what might have seemed a familiar world. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of gender and childhood in the nineteenth century. -- James Eli Adams, Cornell University

About the Author

Catherine Robson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis, where she specializes in nineteenth-century British literature and culture. She is also a faculty member of the University of California Dickens Project.


In this insightful study, Robson (English, Univ. of California, Davis) analyzes the "relationship between middle-class men and little girls in nineteenth-century British culture." Documenting the phenomenon of "girl worship" in the literary works of canonical male authors, including Wordsworth, Dickens, Ruskin, and Carroll, she explores the idealization and idolization of little girls in the Victorian era and suggests that such fantasies offered the adult male "the best opportunity to reconnect with his own lost self." Her argument is further supported by an examination of cultural artifacts such as conduct books, government reports, paintings, and popular journalism. The treatise ends with an examination of the decline of the notion of the ideal girl, prompted by growing social concerns over the exploitation of children as laborers and prostitutes. This wide-ranging, penetrating investigation contributes significantly to the areas of childhood and gender studies, masculinity studies, and 19th-century British social history. Highly recommended for all academic collections. Carol A. McAllister, Coll. of William & Mary Lib., Williamsburg, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2001 "What is new about Robson's argument is her contention that for many well-to-do men the image of perfect childhood, lost and desired, remained feminine... Understood this way, the idealisation of little girls in Victorian culture is an attempt to repossess the remembered self rather than a wish for sexual possession of the other."--Dinah Birch, London Review of Books "[An] illuminating study of the relationships that existed between little girls and a whole synod of Victorian middle-class men... What Robson detects in these men is less paedophilic desire and more a melancholy sense of something lost... Ruskin, Carroll, and their fellow enthusiasts, she contends, were chasing their own pasts..."--Matthew Sweet, Independent on Sunday "This wide-ranging, penetrating investigation contributes significantly to the areas of childhood and gender studies, and 19th century British social history."--Library Journal "Robson skillfully interweaves the tales of these two seminal Victorian [Ruskin and Carroll] with discussion of child-labour legislation, painting, literature and conduct books."--Gill Gregory, Times Literary Supplement "An important addition... Well written, scrupulously researched."--Choice "[Victorians] certainly had a complicated relationship with sexuality and the young. This book can be recommended for throwing at least some new light on this troubled topic."--Nicholas Tucker, Times Higher Education Supplement "A provocative addition to ongoing debates about gender and subjectivity."--Christine Roth, Nineteenth Century Studies "An excellent book ... powerfully and persuasively written ... free of jargon, rich in its scholarship, and fully in touch with recent work in a burgeoning field. In all, it is a valuable addition to a growing list of books that help us see the Victorians and their world in fresher, richer ways."--Carole G. Silver, Nineteenth-Century Literature

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