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Meg Rosoff

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Title: Meg Rosoff


1
Meg Rosoffs How I Live Now (2004)
  • Rosoffs text participates in the following
    genres
  • The Problem Novel
  • War literature
  • Science Fiction
  • Rosoffs text considers controversial subject
    matter
  • Eating disorders
  • Incest
  • Cutting
  • War
  • Death
  • Survivors Guilt
  • Rosoff is an American author who now lives in
    England well want to consider whether we can
    identify specifically American or British
    aspects of the novel
  • How I Live Now won the Guardian Childrens
    Fiction Prize and the Printz Award
  • Some critics consider it to be a crossover
    novel others classify it as YA Lit

2
Reviews
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Teens may feel that they have experienced a war
    themselves as they vicariously witness Daisy's
    worst nightmares. Like the heroine, readers will
    emerge from the rubble much shaken, a little
    wiser and with perhaps a greater sense of
    humanity.
  • The School Library Journal
  • Though the novel has disturbing elements, Rosoff
    handles the harshness of war and the taboo of
    incest with honest introspection. This Printz
    award winner is a good choice for book
    discussions as it considers the disruption of war
    both physically and emotionally and should be on
    every high school and public library shelf.

3
Reviews
  • Critic John McLay
  • Rosoff's writing style is both brilliant and
    frustrating. Her descriptions are wonderful, as
    is her ability to portray the emotions of her
    characters. However, her long sentences and total
    lack of punctuation for dialogue can be
    exhausting. Her narrative is deeply engaging and
    yet a bit unbelievable. The end of the book is
    dramatic, but too sudden. The book has a raw,
    unfinished feel about it, yet that somehow adds
    to the experience of reading it.

4
Why did the Problem Novel Become Popular in the
1960s?
  • Critic Gail Murray suggests
  • A new construction of childhood emerged during
    the 1960s. It recognized that children could
    not always be protected from the dangers and
    sorrows of real life they might be better
    prepared to cope with pain if adults did not try
    to protect them from it. The boundaries that had
    protected children and adolescents from adult
    responsibilities throughout the 19th century and
    the first half of the 20th century became much
    more permeable. Such previously defined adult
    issues as sexuality and suffering entered the
    realm of childhood.

5
Sheila Egoffs Definition of The Problem Novel
  • The protagonist is alienated and hostile toward
    adults.
  • Some relief from unhappiness comes from a
    relationship with an adult outside the family.
  • The story is often told in the first person and
    is often confessional and self-centered.
  • The narrative is told from the point of view of
    an ordinary child, often in the vernacular
    vocabulary is limited tone is often flat, and
    emotionally detached.
  • Dialogue predominates.
  • The settings are urban.
  • Sexuality is openly and frequently discussed.
  • Parents are absent, either physically or
    emotionally.

6
Childrens Literature and War
  • On May 1st 2004, at Froebel College, Roehampton,
    in partnership with NCRCL, Action for Childrens
    Arts ran an Inspiration Day entitled Childrens
    Literature and War.
  • The main speakers were the Childrens Laureate
  • Michael Morpurgo, Elizabeth Laird, Michael
    Foreman, Charles Way - all prize winning writers
    who have written fictional stories set against a
    background of war academic Geoff Fox and
    special guest Philip Pullman.
  • National Center for Research in Childrens
    Literature

7
Conclusions of the NCRCL Participants
  • Children deserve psychological depth in the
    depiction of war - they need to see and
    understand the enemy as human.
  • Fiction acts as a bridge between the fantasy of
    warfare (as for example in the filmed battle
    scenes of the Lord of the Rings) and the brutal
    reality of news coverage seen almost daily by
    children on the television.
  • The imagination has a transfiguring effect and
    some hope can be presented even within the
    bleakest and most poignant of stories.
  • Particularly challenging is the task of
    representing current conflicts rather than past
    conflicts - even those of the more recent past
    (World War 2) which, although vivid to most of
    the writers represented in these discussions,
    nevertheless remain distant to the present
    generation of children.
  • As artists, the clearest responsibility that they
    saw was to present a personal vision of the
    truth.

8
Science Fiction Sub-genre of Fantasy
  • Science Fiction is a sub-genre of Fantasy, so
    lets begin by defining the genre
  • A work of fantasy is one in which at least one
    element of the story does not conform to natural
    laws.
  • When discussing fantasy, we distinguish between
    the primary world and the secondary world. The
    primary world refers to the world we live in,
    where natural laws are observed. The secondary
    world refers to another place, where one or more
    of the natural laws have been suspended.

9
Science Fiction Primary v. Secondary World
  • In some works of fantasy, characters only know a
    primary world, but it is a world in which
    something happens that does not conform to
    natural laws. For instance, the Harry Potter
    series takes place in the primary world, as
    witches and wizards live alongside Muggles in
    modern day Britain. Sometimes they are able to
    shroud their actions from Muggles by hiding
    Hogwarts in a mist or placing the Ministry of
    Magic underground in London however, there is
    not a separate magic world.

10
Science Fiction Primary v. Secondary World
  • In other works of fantasy, characters begin in
    the primary world, but find some way to enter the
    secondary world. In the C.S. Lewis Narnia
    series, for instance, the characters find a
    portal to a secondary world through a disused
    wardrobe.
  • Finally, there are fantasy texts in which the
    characters live in a secondary world throughout
    the novel. A good example of this sort of text
    would be Lois Lowrys The Giver, which takes
    place in an entirely fictional society.

11
Types of Fantasy
  • Most scholars agree that there are four subgenres
    of Fantasy
  • animal fantasy
  • time fantasy
  • high fantasy
  • science-fiction fantasy

12
Animal Fantasy
  • Judith Hillman notes Animal fantasies derive
    from one of the oldest forms of literature the
    beast fable. Fables, folktales, and other forms
    of traditional literature showed human affinity
    to animals in the many depictions of
    anthropomorphism. In modern fantasy, the best
    examples of childrens literature show a careful
    blend of human characteristics with animal
    qualities.

13
Time Fantasy
  • Judith Hillmans definition The notion that
    time runs in several directions has long
    fascinated authors, scientists, and philosophers.
    Is time cyclical or is it linear? Do other
    worlds exist in different time schemes? In time
    fantasies, authors construct parallel worlds that
    touch our primary world in places, allowing time
    travel back and forth. Another world running
    simultaneously to our presents all sorts of
    possibilities in literary invention. In
    addition, there are historical time fantasies in
    which a character from the present can go back in
    time, or a character from long ago can come to
    the present.

14
High Fantasy, Part I
  • High Fantasy High fantasy evolved from an
    earlier form of literature, the medieval romance
    of the 11th and 12th centuries. In this form,
    the exploits of hero figures such as King Arthur
    and his knights were featured, and the plots
    centered on a quest that would prove the
    worthiness or lack thereof of the central
    characters. In recent years, a number of novels
    have been set during this time period, but the
    medieval world has gone from being a primary
    world setting to a secondary world setting its
    emphasis on the exploits of heroic, its focus on
    the code of chivalry, and its setting all mark
    its difference from the modern world.

15
High Fantasy, Part 2
  • In High Fantasy, the battle between good and evil
    is fought on a physical level, but also on a
    philosophical one as Hillman notes, the main
    character is often a common person who is called
    on to perform beyond his or her capabilities, but
    somehow summons the strength to do it.

16
Science Fiction Fantasy
  • In s-ff, the secondary world is typically set in
    the future or in an unspecified now.
  • The best science fiction balances technological
    concerns, a solid storyline, and a compelling
    vision of the future. If it is successful, it
    leads us to rethink our current society, its
    values, and its very construction.

17
Pre-reading Questions
  • As you read Rosoffs How I Live Now, you should
    consider these questions
  • Why might Rosoff want to juxtapose a problem
    novel with a war novel? What insights might
    young readers take away by comparing their own
    life issues with broader world issues?
  • Is there a normative center in this novel? If
    you feel that there is, identify it and explain
    WHY you feel it to be a place where ideal human
    interaction occurs.
  • In what ways does Daisy grow throughout the
    narrative? What do you find to be her strengths?
    Her weaknesses?

18
Pre-reading Questions
  • More questions
  • It is legal to marry ones first cousin in
    England and in many US states. But its a
    controversial scenario, as even Daisy recognizes.
    What did you make of this aspect of the novel?
    Do you agree with The School Library Journal
    reviewer, who comments Rosoff handles
    thetaboo of incest with honest introspection?
  • Some critics have argued that Rosoff makes the
    unreal seem real and the real seem unreal. In
    other words, she creates a situation in which
    everyday life becomes strange and unfamiliar, and
    where strange things become normal. As you read
    through the text, select at least one or two
    instances where you think that this happens.

19
Pre-reading Questions
  • Still more questions
  • The massacre scene is extremely powerful, as is
    the murder scene earlier in the text. Consider
    how these scenes are presented what techniques
    does Rosoff use to engage her readers with what
    is incredibly disturbing material?
  • Read the final section of the novel very
    carefully. What do you make of the description
    of the garden? Do you find any symbolism in the
    description?
  • Finally, for extra credit, can you identify any
    places in the text where Rosoff is creating
    intertextuality with earlier classics of
    childrens literature?
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