Appropriate or anathema?
The representation of incest in children’s literature
in Incest in contemporary literature
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The chapter draws attention to the extreme unspeakability of incest in children's literature and the rarity of texts either literally or symbolically dealing with the topic. It analyses Crew and Scott’s picture story book, In My Father’s Room (2000), in terms of the Bluebeard fairy tale, with close attention to ways of seeing and being seen. This disturbing text (marketed as a book for young children) plays a father’s love for his daughter, manifested in his secret story-writing, against the Bluebeard story of secrecy, multiple sexual partners and murder. The boundaries of the unspeakable in literature for children have changed markedly in the post-war era, particularly in terms of problem novels for a young adult readership; but picture story books for younger readers remain almost uniformly committed to a depiction of the loving nuclear family with mother, father and child or children, where childhood naughtiness is the worst evil that can be encountered; incestuous behaviours by a father are barely mentionable and the incestuous mother unthinkable.

Editor: Miles Leeson


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