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Vision of community : a feminist re-reading of Elizabeth Goudge’s children’s novels Warry, Michelle Joselin

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to discuss Elizabeth Goudge's children's novels as feminist novels. Using criteria developed by feminist literary critics of children's literature, such as Lissa Paul, Rebecca Trites, and Shirley Foster and Judy Simons, I identify elements in Goudge's children's novels that classify them as such and argue subsequently that Goudge's novels, often considered little more than sentimental novels of place, deserve to be reconsidered. While some critics have appreciated certain values in some of Goudge's novels in years past, I want to bring Goudge's novels for children into a contemporary dialogue by exposing the vision of community at their center, which is informed by feminist sensibility. I observe that little scholarly attention has been paid to Goudge's writing. I propose that this stems from the fact that Goudge's writing is informed by a feminine value system and has thus been devalued by a patriarchal hierarchy of literary values. I further propose that there is much to value in Goudge's children's novels for a wide range of readers, in particular her vision of community. I argue that there is a place for Goudge's children's novels in a feminist canon of children's literature. I utilize the methodology of feminist re-reading to uncover the feminine value systems within the narratives—value systems that are embodied in Goudge's female characters, who play key roles in securing integration in their communities. I assert that the central motif in Goudge's children's novels is the healing of communities through a rectification of imbalances in their spiritual, economic and social structures. Further, I demonstrate how Goudge's girl characters produce a community that becomes a harmonious whole through redemption and forgiveness.

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