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Irish Women'S Writing, 1878-1922Advancing the Cause of Liberty$
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Anna Pilz and Whitney Standlee

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719097584

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719097584.001.0001

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Nature, education, and liberty in The Book of Gilly by Emily Lawless

Nature, education, and liberty in The Book of Gilly by Emily Lawless

(p.49) 3 Nature, education, and liberty in The Book of Gilly by Emily Lawless
Irish Women'S Writing, 1878-1922

Heidi Hansson

Manchester University Press

Representations of childhood in late Victorian and Edwardian writing often reproduce a Romantic philosophy where the child is understood as possessing a freedom of spirit and contact with the senses that has been lost to adults. This has repercussions on the spaces the child occupies as well as the activities described, with the child frequently depicted in natural surroundings that stimulate imagination and play. A particular source of ideological friction seems to be a perceived incompatibility between the idea of the child as fundamentally free and the role of education, understood as school or parental control, as restricting this natural liberty and potential. A common solution in children’s literature is to set the story outside the real world, in the country, in a dreamland or simply outdoors, where education can be removed to the distant future and located outside the boundaries of the tale. A more unusual approach is the one taken by Emily Lawless in her only children’s novel The Book of Gilly: Four Months out of a Life (1906) where experiencing nature and formal education are identified as contrasts from the outset and their respective validity as routes to knowledge and self-definition interrogated.

Keywords:   Emily Lawless, The Book of Gilly, Education, Ecology, Children’s literature

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