POST-COLONIAL LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN EDU32PLC Lecture 3 Rewriting Colonial Texts © La Trobe University, David Beagley 2006 Reminder • All work submitted for assessment requires a Cover sheet which includes a Statement of authorship - available on the School of Education Web Page at www.latrobe.edu.au/edu/courses.html References Bader, B. (1996) Sambo, Babaji and Sam. The Horn Book. 72(5) September/October: 536-547 Martin, M. (1998) “Hey, who’s the kid with the green umbrella?” Reevaluating the Black-a-moor and Little Black Sambo. The Lion and the Unicorn [online]. 22(2): 147-162. Available: Project Muse. Sircar, Sanjay. (1999) The International Case of Little Colorless Babaji: Reracinating, Returning and Retaining a Classic. Signal 90: 187-211. Susina, J. (1999) Reviving or revising Helen Bannerman’s The Story of Little Black Sambo: Postcolonial hero or signifying monkey? in Voices of the Other: Children’s Literature and the Postcolonial Context. (1999) ed. R. McGillis. New York: Garland The Problem 2 contexts for judgement of the book and the question of revision: • Political – the social issues and reactions “Helen Bannerman’s The Story of Little Black Sambo (1899) has the unenviable reputation as the most racist text in the history of children’s literature. Both Bannerman’s text and illustrations have become emblematic of racial stereotyped texts.” Susina (1999) • Literary – the authorial perspective and audience reception “…a perfect union of words and pictures – with a story that seems timeless, like unburied treasure, and a highly original format that became the model of twentieth-century picture books.” Bader (1996) The Problem 3 questions to be asked to justify rewriting a text: 1. 2. 3. Does it cause offence? Will rewriting remove the offence? What should be rewritten? Does it cause offence? What elements could be offensive? Caricaturing • • • • Illustrations: black-a-moor, b&w minstrel Names: Sambo, Mumbo, Jumbo Clothing: dandified but “childish dress-up” Colonial relationships: speech, home, dinner table, pancake recipe Who might be offended? People demeaned by such caricatures • People of negro identity • People of Indian identity What’s the offence? • Classic trickster folk tale – e.g. Brer Rabbit – with elements still very popular in children’s stories. • Does it demean the black child, or make him present in white nurseries? • Are the inconsistencies poor writing, or deliberate? • Is the problem Bannerman’s and the book’s, or the reader’s? Will rewriting remove the offence? The balance of political and literary contexts • Will changing the offending detail alter the literary quality? • Will the change carry its own (maybe unexpected) political message? What should be rewritten? What should be kept? Literary elements • Style: language, simplicity and logic of story, humour • Theme: resourceful hero, triumph over bullies, family What should be changed? Political elements • Caricature: demeaning racial representation in illustrations • Colonial attitudes: clothing, comparisons How? • Sam and the Tigers • The Story of Little Babaji Sam and the Tigers What does it keep? Setting - non-specific imaginary place Sam-sam-sa-mara Characters - child, tigers, mother, father Illustrations - Sam’s racial identity, clothing and colours Language - simple, repeated refrain Story - establishing, sequence of action, resolution Sam and the Tigers What does it change? Setting - essence is southern USA, time early 20th century (cf. The Colour Purple) Characters - populated landscape, 5 tigers, Brer Rabbit Illustrations - realist style, intricate backgrounds, independent visual narrative Language - idioms of setting, modern and tangential references (cf. Shrek) Story - “excursions” to validate inclusions The Story of Little Babaji What does it keep? Setting - vaguely Indian Characters - child, tigers, mother, father Illustrations - cartoon-ish, edging to caricature Language - rhythms and repetitive, names in pattern Story - virtually intact in sequence and detail The Story of Little Babaji What does it change? Setting - exclusively Indian, no fantasy options Characters - mother and father’s active roles/identities Illustrations - intricate supporting detail, “Disneyfied” impression of India, clothing and scenery is Bollywood Language - names “Indian-ish” but inaccurate Story - illustrative details to develop modernist distinct visual narrative How successful are they? • Many critics prefer Sam to Babaji for its development of context and detail into its own world • Babaji maintains spareness of illustration better, with its focussing on the simplicity of story and resolution • Is the story adjusted, or appropriated? – Could Sam’s placement in a definite (if fanciful) USbased setting be seen as intellectual colonialism? – Does Babaji’s firm Indian identity merely emphasise its inherent colonial attitudes? • Are these versions replacements, alternatives, or additions?