“Culture,” writes Raymond Williams (1983a), “is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.” When it is applied to the study of children and their literature, it is certainly one of the most contested as well. The Latin cultura is derived from the past participial stem of the root word colere: to cultivate, to worship. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, later meanings are divided into three branches:
I. The cultivation of land, and derived senses.
III. Extended uses (from branch I.).
While the second branch meaning is obsolete and rare, many of our extended, metaphorical uses of the term bear some relation to notions of the sacred, particularly when applied to children.
Notions of children’s acculturation are often perceived as being either in concert with or opposed to nature, or frequently both. Largely as a result of the influence of …