Queering the Victorian Nursery: Laura Richards’s “My Japanese Fan”

Queering the Victorian Nursery: Laura Richards’s “My Japanese Fan” This essay suggests a queer reading of the poem “My Japanese Fan” by American children’s writer Laura Richards. Published in 1890, the poem stands out as conspicuously queer even today. While describing a Japanese figure of ambiguous gender, the poem outlines for its young readers terms for defining sexual identity that lie outside mainstream binary thinking; that it does so without any attempt at establishing gender hierarchy is remarkable. In so doing, the poem destabilizes clearly demarcated, binary notions of sex and gender in favour of indeterminacy and ambivalence, characteristics that inform queer theory. Thus, the poem complicates traditional views of sexuality in Victorian America, and joins a significant body of Richards’s resistant poetry, further demonstrating the subversive potential of children’s literature. The following discussion offers a close and contextual reading of the poem and attempts to account both for its positive portraiture of gender queerness in the Victorian nursery, as well as for its invisibility in criticism before now. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Children's Literature in Education Springer Journals

Queering the Victorian Nursery: Laura Richards’s “My Japanese Fan”

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature
Subject
Linguistics; Language and Literature; Language Education; Education, general; Sociology, general
ISSN
0045-6713
eISSN
1573-1693
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10583-018-9362-x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay suggests a queer reading of the poem “My Japanese Fan” by American children’s writer Laura Richards. Published in 1890, the poem stands out as conspicuously queer even today. While describing a Japanese figure of ambiguous gender, the poem outlines for its young readers terms for defining sexual identity that lie outside mainstream binary thinking; that it does so without any attempt at establishing gender hierarchy is remarkable. In so doing, the poem destabilizes clearly demarcated, binary notions of sex and gender in favour of indeterminacy and ambivalence, characteristics that inform queer theory. Thus, the poem complicates traditional views of sexuality in Victorian America, and joins a significant body of Richards’s resistant poetry, further demonstrating the subversive potential of children’s literature. The following discussion offers a close and contextual reading of the poem and attempts to account both for its positive portraiture of gender queerness in the Victorian nursery, as well as for its invisibility in criticism before now.

Journal

Children's Literature in EducationSpringer Journals

Published: May 30, 2018

References

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