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dc.contributor.advisorTankard, Paul
dc.contributor.advisorMcLean, Thomas
dc.contributor.authorCook, Ashley
dc.identifier.citationCook, A. (2015). Out of Time? Fairy Tales and Fin-de-Siècle Temporality, Gender and Politics, 1888-1911 (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractThis thesis situates fin-de-siècle fairy tales, and the figure of the child, as pivotal discursive approaches through which to consider industrial modernity, with all its attendant anxieties about temporality, gender, socialism and aestheticism. It examines how the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Sharp, and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan offer an imaginative space from which to play with and negotiate fin-de-siècle concerns and conceive of alternative realities. A period of wide-scale social and political change, the fin de siècle also saw a change in the way people conceived of time, brought about by the advance of the railway and communication technology. Meanwhile, the figure of the child and the genre of the fairy tale occupied a more important place in fin-de-siècle culture than at perhaps any other period in history, as indicated by the frequent discussions in essays, articles and periodicals of the era. This thesis looks at each author’s collection in terms of a particular socio-political concern. Thus, Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales are explored with relation to Wilde’s view of “individual socialism”; Evelyn Sharp’s own, rather different fairy tales are considered in relation to her role as a social reformer, specifically with reference to her interrogation of gender; and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, is placed into dialogue with Walter Pater’s articulation of aesthetic temporality. Chapters one and two foreground this analysis, establishing the child and fairy tales respectively as an integral part of those fin-de-siècle debates. Chapter one highlights the period’s preoccupation with children’s creativity and imagination, and explores the way that a space, discursive and otherwise, was created for play, which was seen as being very close to that of the writer or artist in their creation of worlds. Chapter two focuses more narrowly on the attitude to fairy tales during the fin de siècle, arguing that the fairy tale was far less separated from ‘adult’ texts than is now the case. The chapter also examines the specific properties of the fairy tale genre that reflect the concern with temporality that was such a feature of fin-de-siècle modernity. Chapter three analyses the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde through the lens of his theory of “individual socialism” set out in “The Soul of Man”. Reading through this essay’s arguments against charity and suffering forces us to reconsider the tales’ endings, and to recognise the success of the child figure in enacting Wilde’s vision. Though the tales might seem to promote conventional morality, they are firmly tied into the ideas of both society and temporality expressed in the essay, and therefore can be reconnected to both the public’s more radical vision of Oscar Wilde, and to the rest of his work and vision. Chapter four analyses Evelyn Sharp’s fairy tales with regard to her questioning of conventional gender roles, and her destabilisation of supposedly essential gendered characteristics. The chapter highlights the way the tales use colour and subtle allusions to fin-de-siècle culture to interrogate the position of women in the aesthetic movement, and also considers Sharp’s use of New Woman-like girls, and dandy-like boys, who force us to rethink gendered values. The chapter situates Sharp’s interest in the fairy tale as comparable to her brother Cecil Sharp’s interest in folk dance, arguing that the two Sharps’ search for new, alternative landscapes and temporalities is born out of the fin-de-siècle experience of modernity. Chapter five considers Peter Pan, both the play and the novel, Peter and Wendy. Whilst Barrie’s text has been subject to a number of studies, the main tendency in Peter Pan criticism is often to focus on the biographical aspects seen to motivate the texts’ creation. In contrast to this, my study considers Peter Pan contextually, as emerging from the socio-political specificity of the fin de siècle, and analyses Peter Pan in relation to Barrie’s Kailyard novels. The chapter suggests that Barrie’s texts embrace a very fin-de-siècle sense of chaos and uncertainty in order to suggest new modes of thought which evade fixed boundaries and challenge the concept of a concrete, stable reality.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
dc.rightsAll items in OUR Archive are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subjectnineteenth century
dc.subjectfairy tales
dc.subjectchildren's literature
dc.subjectJ.M Barrie
dc.subjectOscar Wilde
dc.subjectEvelyn Sharp
dc.subjectfin de siecle
dc.titleOut of Time? Fairy Tales and Fin-de-Siècle Temporality, Gender and Politics, 1888-1911
dc.language.rfc3066en of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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