Masculinity through the lens of power and violence in post-WW2 British and French children’s literature

Postgraduate students



Funded by the Languages, Cultures and Societies Excellence Scholarship (University of Leeds)

The project investigates portrayals of masculinity in children's literature from post World War 2 France and Britain using the themes of power and violence, commonly associated with manhood. It uses gender and psychoanalytical theory to examine depictions of boys, men and male behaviour and draws on theories of child development and didacticism in children's literature to theorise the potential power of these depictions in the postwar context. Children's literature is also a genre that has commonly been dismissed in academia as unworthy of in depth study, given its younger and less educated target audience, yet as a key tool in child development and learning it can hold powerful messages about gender roles.

The choice of timeframe is particularly pertinent, relating to a time that saw significant changes in gender roles, as men recovered from the trauma of World War 2 and feminism gained traction. This comparative study equally aims to theorise potential differences in portrayals of men based on the differing experiences of the French and British during World War 2, particularly in relation to the Occupation. It also uses genre theory to support and enhance this analysis of masculinity, namely by drawing on popular tropes and structures (e.g. boy heroes and damsels in distress).