Spirits, miracles and clauses: Economy, patriarchy and childhood in popular Christmas texts

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Abstract

In this paper I explore the notion of childhood as it is re/configured in Christmas texts through the discursive frames of industrialisation and global capitalism. Through a poststructuralist analysis of three Christmas texts from the 1840s, 1940s and 1990s, I map discursive shifts in the ways that children and childhood are constructed in relation to the discourses of capitalist societies. Three texts are examined in detail: A Christmas Carol, published by Charles Dickens in 1843; the 1947 version of the film, Miracle on 34th Street; and the 1999 Walt Disney film, The Santa Clause. While these texts provide only a small sample from the thousands of texts available, their commercial success and sustained popular appeal makes them particularly significant sites of analysis. Dickens' text is widely considered 'the most often repeated and imitated secular Christmas story of all' (Belk 2005, p.18), which has itself 'become sacred Christmas literature' (Belk 2005, p. 19). The success of Miracle on 34th Street led to several remakes for television audiences, with major motion picture remakes released in 1973 and again in 1994, while The Santa Clause the role credited with launching actor Tim Allen from a successful television career into a string of Hollywood blockbuster films won the 1995 People's Choice Award (USA) for Favourite Comedy Motion Picture, and was followed by sequels in 2002 and 2006 (IMDb, 2007). When considered together, these three popular, enduring and commercially successful texts illustrate some of the ways in which cultural texts are implicated in constructing children, over time, as particular kinds of economic subjects. Copyright © 2007 Deakin University.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
JournalPapers: Explorations into Children's Literature
Volume17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

Citation

Saltmarsh, S. (2007). Spirits, miracles and clauses: Economy, patriarchy and childhood in popular Christmas texts. Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature, 17(1), 5-18.

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