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Reading in the DarkHorror in Children's Literature and Culture$
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Jessica R. McCort

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496806444

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2018

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496806444.001.0001

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Punishing the Abject Child

Punishing the Abject Child

The Delight and Discipline of Body Horror in Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter

(p.37) Punishing the Abject Child
Reading in the Dark

Justine Gieni

University Press of Mississippi

Justine Gieni examines the language and illustrations of Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 picturebook Struwwelpeter, a seminal text in the genre that, on the surface at least, makes explicit use of horrifying methods of childhood death and dismemberment as a means of cautioning young readers to behave according to the strictures of its era. In her essay, however, Gieni zeroes in on the transgressive nature of Hoffman’s tales, concentrating specifically on the role of body horror in the text. Entering the debate about the book’s appropriateness for child audiences, Gieni focuses especially on the violence committed against the child’s body in the book, arguing that, through the “powers of horror,” Hoffman satirizes the pedagogical didacticism of nineteenth-century German culture and empowers young readers, allowing them to experience the thrill of derisive laughter in the face of brutal authoritarianism. She also illuminatingly considers the publication, relevance, and reception of Struwwelpeter today, discussing how it has been rebranded as a text for “knowing” adult audiences with an emphasis more on its horror than its humor, as well as the implications of such a shift in the text’s purported readership and thematic intentions.

Keywords:   Struwwelpeter, Abjection, Body Horror, Cautionary Tales, Satire

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