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  • 1 University of Cambridge Faculty of Education 184 Hills Road Cambridge CB2 2PQ UK
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Abstract  

Heterology, or discourse on the Other, encompasses a number of theories dealing with unequal power positions in real life as well as in literature. While feminist theory has made us aware of male authors creating women characters as the Other, and while postcolonial theory reveals alterity in the images of ethnicity, a heterological approach to juvenile literature examines the power balance between the adult author and the implied young audience. This balance is most tangibly manifested in the relationship between the ostensibly adult narrative voice and the child focalizing character and its perception of the fictive world. In other words, the way the adult narrator narrates the child reveals the degree of alterity — yet degree only, since alterity is by definition inevitable in writing for children. Indeed, nowhere else are the power structures as visible as in children’s literature, the refined instrument that has been for centuries used to educate, socialize and oppress a particular social group. In this respect, children’s literature is a unique art and communication form, deliberately created by those in power for the powerless. However, there are other factors besides age-related cognitive discrepancy in childrenh’s literature, which may both enhance and diminish the effect of power imbalance. The present article will look into strategies of alterity in classical and contemporary texts for young readers and consider the synergy of their impact on our perception. Among such strategies, there is the use of specific genres (fantasy, adventure, dystopia), settings (Robinsonnade, Orientalism), and characters (superheroes, anti-heroes, animals, monsters), as well as narrative devices such as voice, focalization and subjectivity. The concepts of norm and normativity are central to heterological studies, and in the case of children’s literature, the focus lies on adult normativity. Contemporary children’s literature has cautiously started subverting its own oppressive function, as it can describe situations in which the established power structures are interrogated. Queer theory and carnival theory prove especially helpful in investigating these issues.