Recovering children’s reading: “Queer Treasures” of the Children’s Collection in Cork Public Library, 1922–1939

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Mooney, Mairéad
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University College Cork
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This thesis is concerned with advancing our knowledge of Irish children’s reading in the first two decades of the independence era. It establishes that the type of reading material in circulation by the public library of the Irish Free State’s second-largest city was substantially in conflict with the nation-building ideology of Irish-Ireland. I demonstrate this disparity by comparing the Cork Public Library’s accession records, which document the titles acquired for its children’s collection, with other source material that illustrates the pervasive public discourse which held that British culture was incompatible with — indeed, harmful to — Irish Catholic standards. Children were presented as particularly susceptible to the messages encoded in their reading matter. Hence, text was both potentially a useful communicator of the values which the new state wished to cultivate in its young citizens and a source of contamination in a nation striving to de-anglicise itself. Other societies which have recently experienced major socio-political transformations have often leveraged children’s literature as a medium through which to socialise children into the new value system adopted by such societies. However, in Ireland, the conditions necessary to facilitate a thriving indigenous English-language publishing industry were limited. Therefore, the children’s collection in Cork Public Library continued to be dominated by British publications, a situation little changed from the colonial period. Nonetheless, a small body of English-language books produced by Irish writers and Irish publishing houses did emerge. This study analyses the children’s titles in circulation by the library during the time-frame, as well as providing a close textual analysis of three under-researched texts by Irish authors. It also indicates the ambivalent position in which libraries found themselves in this period, as repositories of stock out of step with the de-anglicisation momentum.
Cork Public Library , Irish Free State , Post-independence , Reading , James Wilkinson , De-anglicisation , Marie Conrayville , James O'Mahoney , T. C. Bridges , M. Ó Leannain , M. H. Gaffney , Children's Books Ireland , Citizenship , Publishing in Ireland , Cork , Libraries , Children's literature , Nation building , Accession records , Library books
Mooney, M. 2019. Recovering children’s reading: “Queer Treasures” of the Children’s Collection in Cork Public Library, 1922–1939. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.

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