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“To the Rescue!”: A Case Study of the Prefaces to Late Eighteenth-Century Children’s Books

Keywords: women writers , eighteenth-century children s literature , prefaces , commercial strategies , instruction and entertainment , literary market.

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Abstract:

Within the context of the rise of domestic pedagogy, the approach made by women writers of children’s literature is a substantial contribution to the renowned debate on education, providing women educators with both domestic and literary authority. The traditional view is that these women were participating almost angelically in the educational development of their times; however, this position ignores the fact that these writers were, actually, commercially driven. Hence, their “Prefaces”, “Dedications”, “Addresses” or “Postscripts”, dedicated either to parents or to children, contain several ingenious strategies aimed at manipulating and convincing their audience to purchase their “products”. Therefore, this paper aims at studying the writers’ self-representation by looking at a series of books and their paratexts that were used to create support and help the writers advance their commercial objective. The paper focuses on the selected works of Letitia Barbauld, Ellenor Fenn, Sarah Trimmer, Maria Edgeworth, Mary Lamb and Jane West.

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