Charting the composition of British series of children’s classics

Webster, A.M. (2024) Charting the composition of British series of children’s classics. The Lion and the Unicorn. ISSN 0147-2593 (In Press)

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Classic children’s literature continues to hold a strong appeal for scholars, publishers, educators and readers in the United Kingdom. This is exemplified by the prominent position that classic texts currently occupy in British educational policy. Since the turn of the twentieth century several British publishers have grouped together individual works and presented them to child readers in series titled classics. Despite the significant role that publishers are acknowledged to play in creating classics and prevalence of British series of children’s classics, these series have received a limited amount of critical attention in children’s literature scholarship. Therefore, the composition of series in terms of the titles that publishers have regularly presented, and currently present, as children’s classics is an unknown entity. This paper reports on a research project that used descriptive statistical analysis with a focus on the frequency of titles, specifically the most regularly occurring titles and non-recurring titles that only appear in a single series, to draw conclusions about the composition of series. This approach and focus necessitated a large data set of information about British series of children’s classics from the start of the twentieth century, specifically metadata about the titles included in these series, that was subsequently organized in a database. The findings reveal the extent to which the composition of series is influenced by commercial factors, namely copyright. Furthermore, studying the types of non-recurring titles and their appearance in series over time reveals that British series of children’s classics in the twenty-first century are generally more homogenised, as series now focus on a small core of titles from the Golden Age of children’s literature and lack diversity. The paper concludes by arguing that a statistical approach to children’s literature that involves the compilation and analysis of large data sets enables researchers to move beyond individual texts and summarise previously unexplored or under explored areas.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an author-produced version of a paper accepted for publication by John Hopkins University Press in The Lion and the Unicorn. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: Children's classics, Series, Commercialism, British publishing, Statistical analysis
Divisions: School of Social Science
Depositing User: Amy Webster
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2024 13:46
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2024 13:46

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