By Jacqueline Rose
Peter Pan, Jacqueline Rose contends, forces us to question what it's we're doing within the never-ending creation and dissemination of kid's fiction. In a preface, written for this version, Rose considers a few of Peter Pan's new guises and their implications. From Spielberg's Hook, to the lesbian construction of the play on the London Drill corridor in 1991, to debates within the English condominium of Lords, to a newly claimed prestige because the icon of transvestite tradition, Peter Pan maintains to illustrate its strange renewability as a cultural fetish of our times.
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Extra resources for The Case of Peter Pan, or the Impossibility of Children's Fiction (New Cultural Studies)
It might, therefore, seem strange to argue for their similarity. But there is a continuity in children's fiction which runs from Rousseau up to and beyond Peter Pan to Alan Garner, in which the child is constantly set up as the site of a lost truth and/or moment in history, which it can therefore be used to retrieve. Rousseau turned this cult of childhood (the term comes from George Boas (Boas, 1966)) into an educational treatise, but, as has often been pointed out, Emile already took the form of a fictional narrative or romance.
It was only one step to turn this concept of childhood into the idea of fiction for children which would send the child itself off on this investigatory journey back into our own past. The purpose of literature for children in Garner, and the purpose of education in Rousseau, are remarkably close. Literature is the repository of a privileged experience and sensibility at risk in the outside world where these values are being crushed under the weight of cultural decay. This is a conception of literature which has important implications for how we think about childhood.
If we want to call Peter Pan a play for children, therefore, we should start by recognising our place in its history and performance, and the complexity of the relations which once again lie behind the transparency of the term. 8 Spectacle of childhood for us, or play for children? The question goes beyond the issue of trying to determine how many children might have seen Peter Pan (millions by now), or whether or not they said they liked it (for that you will find evidence either way). When Peter Pan becomes a play, the first thing to notice is the way that this question of how a space of representation is being constituted for the child has been forced to the outer limits of its performance.