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Back where they belong: Gypsies, kidnapping and assimilation in Victorian children’s literature'

Matthews, Jodie (2010) Back where they belong: Gypsies, kidnapping and assimilation in Victorian children’s literature'. Romani Studies 5, 20 (2). pp. 137-159. ISSN 1757–2274

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Examples of Victorian children’s literature are examined to consider the recycling
of the ‘Gypsy’ child-stealing myth, with attention drawn to common features of the
stories as an indicator of the narratives’ cultural function. Fictions about the adoption
and conversion of Gypsy children are read not as texts that tell opposite stories
about where Gypsy and non-Gypsy children should reside – with their own or adoptive
parents – but as narratives that perform the same ostensible task: demonstrating
the subject’s proper place in a social order. The article suggests that rather than offer
reassurance about where children belong, however, both genres betray anxieties about
the legitimacy and naturalness of that social order; they trouble the forms and meaning
of ‘family’, an institution supposed to act as a pillar of Victorian society and its
divisions. The compulsive repetition of familial disorder results in the powerful association
between Gypsies and kidnapping, an arbitrary connection made to seem obvious
and natural through ubiquity.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Academy for British and Irish Studies
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jodie Matthews
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2010 11:36
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 21:57


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