The Spatial Dynamics of Juvenile Series Literature
Where we come from, where we are, where we have been, and where we are going all have a huge impact on who we are. Theories of space and place also hold that the converse is equally true—that we have an impact on those spaces and places we inhabit or dwell within. We make space: our agencies, our cultures, our beliefs and values and understandings shape the macro- and micro-environments around us. Just as much, however, those places we inhabit shape us, causing us to adapt ourselves to them.
Children exist in spaces that are crafted for them by adults—by parents, by school administrators and teachers—and, as such, their impact on space can be somewhat limited. Space is made for them, but certainly not to their own specifications or liking. In children’s literature, spaces are often seen as noteworthy markers of a child’s progression toward adulthood, whether the space is Laura Ingalls’ little house or Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. For these characters, movement through space is about growth and change, about accepting the inevitability of growing up and the responsibility of the adulthood, whether that be marriage and motherhood or vanquishing the most evil wizard of all time.
However, what about juvenile series books, whose central protagonists generally never grow or change? The central character of these series—usually a flat, unchanging trope more than a fully realized, fleshed-out, dynamic figure—is a static creation. Though characters like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys frequently move through different geographies, they never change as characters. In fact, one could argue that the only dynamic that ever experiences any alteration in a series like Nancy Drew is setting. Surely there is something significant about the relationship of series books to those spaces their protagonists inhabit?
This collection explores that relationship, the dynamics between the controlled spaces of childhood and the variable spaces of juvenile series literature. It shows that the unchanging series book characters demonstrate that their impact on space is far greater than its impact ever is on them, reflecting an exercise in spatial authority that most children and even children’s book heroes never quite experience.
Michael G. Cornelius is the author and editor of 20 books, and has published extensively on girls’ and boys’ book series, including works on Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. He has also published on contemporary science fiction and fantasy popular culture and British medieval and Renaissance literature. He earned his PhD at the University of Rhode Island, and is currently a Professor of English at Wilson College, USA.
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