I’m sure we’ll give Lofting and Dolittle more criticism and consideration in class, but I think this is actually a good time to talk about authorial presence and authority in works considered ‘classics’, as is hinted at in the Slate article on Newbery titles. When are we critical of Lofting here, and when are we critical of the contexts, works, and places that informed the book? When does authorial presence matter?
To that end, do we tend to perhaps ‘re-animate’ dead authors more or less in the case of literature for children, and does it matter? I’m inclined to think that we re-animate (or perhaps anthropomorphize in a way…) more when we talk about literature for children — it allows the kind of moralization (not that this is necessarily a bad thing!) that we use to think about what makes a book ‘appropriate’, ‘disturbing’, ‘accurate’, etc. to have a particularly alive and poignant quality.
I’m thinking about re-animating authors through criticism in the same vein as the Slate article, which states towards the end “the Newbery is alive and well at 100”. We talked about Jane Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter a little in our class with Karl, and about material things and objects as having a kind of aliveness. But awards, ways we value and evaluate cultural objects, might be in a meta-category of their own. I suppose I’m asking what kind of aliveness or animacy is present in the Newbery, in reviewing publications, and in publishing houses (corporate personhood?)?