When the wolves were flying: The Box of Delights and flight in 1930s children’s literature

Dean, Dominic (2020) When the wolves were flying: The Box of Delights and flight in 1930s children’s literature. In: McCluskey, Michael and Seaber, Luke (eds.) Aviation in the literature and culture of interwar Britain. Studies in Mobilities, Literature, and Culture . Springer Nature, London, pp. 275-295. ISBN 9783030605544

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Children are consistently and powerfully associated with flight in interwar literature and culture. This association challenges, for reasons this chapter will explore, any characterization – contemporaneous or retrospective – of the relationship between aviation and modernity as inevitably productive of violent destruction and totalitarian power. The child in literature registers the ambivalence of flight between its experiential and political implications, and provides a suggestive trope for the temporal rupture promised by modern flight and the fraught questions of how, if at all, to manage it. In John Masefield’s strange yet persistently popular children’s novel, The Box of Delights (1935), children – who, here as throughout modern cultural history, dream of flight – are suddenly offered the prospect of really flying. Two newly-discovered objects of engineered magic make this possible: the eponymous box of delights, and the aeroplane. The euphoric excitement and potentially infinite knowledge promised by flight is alternately offered by the sacred magic of the box and the darkly modern aeroplanes of Abner Brown’s gang. The Box of Delights, and its place within 1930s children’s literature, indicate the centrality of children – real, imagined, and written for - to the airmindedness of interwar literature and culture as a whole. The ambiguity surrounding flight in this novel requires, moreover, a revised reading of the relationship between the politics of modern technology and the associations of flight with the child.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: Professional Services > Research & Enterprise
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2021 07:31
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2022 02:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/101267

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