03 December 2007

Lots to Chew On

In October, Lisa Spangenberg at Digital Medievalist posted a two-part consideration of a murder case from Ireland. Michael Cleary and some associates were convicted of murdering his wife Bridget after he became convinced that her body had been taken over by a changeling fairy. This all happened in 1895, when the island had both a Royal Irish Constabulary and "fairy doctors" offering cures based on herbs, "new milk," and fire. (I learned about these posts from the History Carnival.)

Spangenberg in turn links, through the theme of “the Other,” to a three-part essay by MacAllister Stone on “Magical Negroes, expendable queers, and other well-worn tropes.” Along the way she touches on Ursula K. Le Guin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Stephen King, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Aristotle.

I was less impressed with Slate's slide show titled "Where the Wild Things Came From: How children's books evolved from morals to madcap fun," based on Drawn to Enchant, by Timothy G. Young. The book and online exhibit are based on items from Yale's wonderful Beinecke Library, but that proves a limitation to showing typical material. What's available doesn't strongly support the exhibit's conclusions.

The second item, for example, is an illustrated alphabet manuscript by Caroline Ketcham Eaton (not Easton, as the website has it), wife of Yale botany professor Daniel C. Eaton. The online exhibit notes that this book was "never published"--so it doesn't typify children's books, merely Eaton's understanding of them. Furthermore, the manuscript's not in a state to be published as technology then existed. I'm not convinced Eaton ever meant to publish it; it looks like an in-joke for her son George, then a graduate student, that merely adopts the traditional form of alphabet books. At least the Beinecke's Political Alphabet was actually put into print.

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