This dissertation is a study of grotesque and transgressional humour in English children's literature. The grotesque is seen here as a liminal and ambivalent aesthetic category at the junction between two fields of tension: the fantastic and the real in one field and the comic and the horrible in the other. Transgression denotes the breaking of rules surrounding the clean and closed body. Both transgression and the grotesque pose threats, threats that may be laughable if they are cast in the right literary form.
Childness, the changing construction of the image of childhood, has been based on the process of civilisation that maintains power structures by inculcating revulsion at the body. At the same time childhood is constructed by adults as an innocent place, safe from adult anxiety, both sexual and social. This leads to a desire for repressed categories expressed in outlandish, and often violent ways in children's literature, in itself a haven from suspicion. Food - including eating and being eaten - and waste - including violence, death and decomposition - are the two transgressional categories used to create laughter throughout the works I study.
Against the backdrop of social and literary developments, I read Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark and Ted Hughes's poetry for children in terms of the mortal, Romantic grotesque, the painful joke of existence; Edward Lear's limericks and Roald Dahl's stories and verses embody the vital, Renaissance grotesque, closely linked to carnival. Carroll's earlier work, notably the Alice books, and Christina Rossetti's work for children, notably Goblin Market, I also examine in the light of these concepts of grotesque and transgression. All of these bodies of work are populated by the deformed and twisted body whose varying presentation in funny books for children indicates the changing image of childhood in society.
Stockholm: Stockholms universitet , 1997. , 233 p.