'Gypsies' in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Books

A Comparative Study of Four National Literary Traditions


This literary analysis of the representation of ‘Gypsies’ in juvenile literature is unique in its comparative scope, as well as in the special attention to rare pre-1850 narratives, the period in which juvenile literature developed as a specific genre. Most studies on the subject are about one national literary tradition or confined to a limited period. In this study Dutch, English, French and German texts are analysed and discussed with reference to main academic publications on the subject. Emphasis is on the rich variation in narrative presentations, rather than on an inventory of images or prejudices. An important topic is the fundamental difference between early English and German narratives. Important because of the wide dissemination of German stories.

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Jean Kommers (Radboud University Nijmegen) is an anthropologist, participating in a research project on the history of "Gypsies": Paradojas de la ciudadanía (University of Seville). He specializes in ethnography and image formation about ‘exotic’ peoples. His Ph.D. thesis is about the Dutch Colonial Administration in the former East Indies, 1800-1830, with special attention to the ethnographic knowledge that officials pretended to possess.
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A Book about Tales, Tales That Do Things


1 Subject, Sources and Approach

2 Representation and Symbolism: An Analysis Referring to Dutch Narratives
 1 Introduction
 2 The Beginning: Some Translations
 3 Stealing Children or Stealing Gypsies?
  3.1 Crossing the Border
  3.2 Who May Cross the Border?
  3.3 The Border
  3.4 Differences in Social Status and the ‘Intermediate Period’
  3.5 The Character of the Intermediary
  3.6 The Temptation
 4 Why are Gypsies in Juvenile Literature Thieves of Children?
 5 Xenophobia and Compassion
 6 Conclusion

3 Intermezzo: How an Enduring German Religious Tale Changed into a ‘gypsy-tale’: Translation and Enculturation of Von Schmid’s Heinrich von Eichenfels (1817)

4 Gypsies in English Juvenile Literature
 1 Introduction
 2 Gypsies and “Englishness”
  2.1 Introduction
 3 Early Representations of gypsies (1787–1849)
  3.1 Tales from the Late Eighteenth Century
  3.2 The Early Nineteenth Century: Illustrated Moral and Instructive Texts
  3.3 The Early Nineteenth Century: Literary Tales
 4 The Victorian Age
  4.1 Some Approaches
  4.2 Textual gypsies as Presented in Victorian Children’s Literature
 5 Conclusion

5 German Juvenile gypsy-Literature
 1 Introduction
 2 Early Nineteenth-Century German gypsy-tales
 3 Some Post-1860 Tales
 4 Conclusion

6 French Juvenile Literature
 1 Introduction
 2 Some Pre-1860 Texts
 3 After 1860
 4 Conclusion

7 Concluding Observations
 1 Some Initial Reflections
 2 Some Thoughts on Contemporary Interpretation
 3 Analysis and Evaluation/Interpretation of Texts (and Authors)
 4 A Literary Approach: Some Recurrent Themes
 5 The Literary Traditions

Specialists in Romany Studies; historians of children’s literature; students of image-formation, of book history and of social stigmatization and discrimination; of identity-politics and of resurging nationalism.
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