Rags to Witches: The grim tale of children’s stories

The next exhibition from Manuscripts & Special Collections, Rags to Witches: The grim tale of children’s stories, is due to open on 4th May at the Weston Gallery, Nottingham Lakeside Arts until 26 August. Using original archives and rare books, it explores a range of children’s stories and traditional tales, from the beloved to the forgotten tales that never got a happily ever after.

Local material on display includes the first English-language publication of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories from 1846. It was translated by Nottingham’s Mary Howitt, who was so captivated by his stories that she learnt Danish specifically to translate them. A successful children’s author of the time, her best-known poem, The Spider and the Fly, will also be on display. There are also some pencil sketches by Victorian children’s illustrator Kate Greenaway, presented to the University of Nottingham in remembrance of her childhood years living in Rolleston.

There will also be a programme of related talks taking place at 1 – 2 pm in the Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham Lakeside Arts, University Park. They are free but need to be booked in advance from http://tickets.lakesidearts.org.uk/ or calling the Box Office on 0115 846 7777

  • Thursday 10 May: Uses of Fairy Tales: Enchanting Ideologies and Radical Transformations

Rachel Palfreyman, Associate Professor in German Studies at the University of Nottingham, discusses how fairy tales have been interpreted, ranging from their exploitation for political purposes to Bettelheim’s orthodox and much-criticised Freudian approach – and how readers brush ideology aside to return to the stories again and again.

  • Thursday 5 July: Storytellers: Cinderella, Pinochio and the remarkable role of translators in the history of British children’s literature

When we see a child enjoy the stories of Cinderella and Pinochio, or engrossed in an Asterix album, it is easy to forget the role of a translator in producing English versions of these tales. Gillian Lathey, Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Roehampton London, will introduce some of these invisible storytellers and pay homage to their neglected craft.

  • Thursday 26 July:  Readers and Their Books in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Colin Heywood, Emeritus Professor of Modern French History at the University of Nottingham, focuses on the society and culture in which children were raised in the 19th century. This talk will cover the massive increase in the quantity and quality of literature written specifically for children in 19th century Britain, which included a shift in content, from heavily didactic works to those concerned above all with giving pleasure to their readers. It will also analyse the underlying forces at work, notably the growing interest in childhood and education, and the achievement of near-universal literacy.

What do you think?