Chapter

Lyrical Leftists, Juvenile Publishing, and the Politics of Progressive Education

Julia L. Mickenberg

in Learning from the Left

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780195152807
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788903 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195152807.003.0002
 Lyrical Leftists, Juvenile Publishing, and the Politics of Progressive Education

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This chapter traces the parallel development of three phenomena in the early 20th century, which separately and in combination helped create a basis for leftist influence in the children's literature field in the mid-20th century. First, the Greenwich Village, bohemian avant-garde otherwise known as the “Lyrical Left” which invested great hope in a “new, free generation” of children, gained cultural ascendancy through magazines like The Masses, producing writers such as Alfred Kreymborg, Wanda Gag, and Carl Sandburg. In the 1920s, these authors would write children's books geared toward liberating the child's imagination. Second, juvenile publishing became a distinct branch of the American publishing industry, and juvenile editing like children's librarianship became a specialty almost completely dominated by educated, independent-minded women. Finally, thanks largely to the efforts of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, progressive education, emphasizing experience, cooperation, and child-centeredness helped produce a vogue in children's literature about the “here and now”, with emphasis on industrial workers and machines, as well as works promoting internationalism or highlighting “cultural gifts”; progressive educational practices also helped make school libraries central to the educational experience, and dramatically increased the market for children's literature.

Keywords: progressive education; Lyrical Left; juvenile publishing; school libraries; Lucy Sprague Mitchell; Carl Sandburg; Wanda Gag; Alfred Kreymborg; internationalism

Chapter.  12280 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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