Fabelns väg till barnlitteraturen
Från Camerarius till Hey
Fable’s Route to Children’s Literature: From Camerarius to Hey
With the emergence of children’s literature in the modern sense in the eighteenth century, new genres of literature especially intended for young readers came into being. In addition, several well established genres, one of which was the Aesopic fable, were adapted and redirected to augment the growing children’s library. Focussing partly on a Scandinavian context, this article outlines fable’s evolution from a genre used in the teaching of classical languages in schools to a literary kind deliberately designed for young readers in their mother tongue. Specifically, it identifies Jean de La Fontaine’s and Antoine Houdart de La Motte’s making of a poetically advanced fable aimed at a readership of adults as a major impetus for the transition; the targeting of a particular age group was thus far unknown in the history of the genre, and it inspired educatively engaged authors to adopt the countermove of constructing a fable specifically addressed to children. The process of generic transformation was accompanied by debates on fable’s suitability as children’s literature, in which arguments put forward in Émile, ou de l’Éducation (1762) played an important role. Somewhat paradoxically, though, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s critical opinion of the genre stimulated the invention of a fable distinctly formulated for young readers, reaching one of its high points in Johann Wilhelm Hey’s Fünfzig Fabeln für Kinder (1833).
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