by Angela Sorby
The “Golden Age” is a Greco-Roman concept, introduced in Hesiod’s Works and Days, which pictures a race of men who “lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils” (2007). In children’s literature, the term was first proposed by the mid-twentieth century British biographer (and Inkling) Roger Lancelyn Green, whose use of it was ideologically freighted but historically useful. Since Green, however, the term has spread and morphed to become a designation of generic excellence: there is a “Golden Age” of children’s book illustration, a “second Golden Age” of children’s fantasy, and a “Golden Age” of African American children’s books. As Raymond Williams (1976) notes of every keyword he included, “Golden Age” seems “inextricably bound up with the problems it was being used to discuss.” In the case of “Golden Age,” does the paradigm tint—or even obscure—the picture?