Historic Aesthetics and Pedagogy in Emma Carroll’s Letters from the Lighthouse and Lucy Strange’s Our Castle by the Sea
This article examines the relationship between aesthetics and pedagogy in two recent historical novels for children about the British Home Front during the Second World War: Letters from the Lighthouse (2017) by Emma Carroll and Our Castle by the Sea (2019) by Lucy Strange. It argues that the representation of civilian life during the war in both novels is conditioned by recent socio-political events in Britain, namely, the recurrent appropriation of the wartime past in support of nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric. The texts discussed in this article seek to counter this narrative, foregrounding immigration as a vital part of Britain’s wartime past. Drawing upon historical fiction studies and cultural analysis, the article begins with an exploration of the aesthetic treatment of wartime Britain in the texts more broadly, arguing that Letters from the Lighthouse participates in and subverts idealised visions of the Home Front, while Our Castle by the Sea rejects nostalgia entirely. I conclude my discussion with an examination of the use of the wartime spy story as an aesthetic template for exploring concepts of xenophobia and prejudice in the two novels. Ultimately, this article contends that literary aesthetics perform a pedagogic function in both texts, presenting the contribution of immigrants and refugees as crucial to the story of the Britain Home Front.
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