Agency

“But he doesn’t have anything on!” (Andersen 2004, 94). With these words, a child opposes adults’ hypocritical admiration of the naked sovereign proudly parading in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “Kejserens nye Klæder” (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”; 1837). Enacting agency, this child character makes an independent statement in opposition to the established adult order. Though the term can be traced back to the seventeenth century, its use within children’s literature studies is a recent phenomenon.

Agency derives from the Latin verb agere, “to act,” an origin reflected in a contemporary definition: “Ability or capacity to act or exert power” (OED). More specifically, sociologists describe agency as “the power of actors to operate independently of the determining constraints of social structure” and “the volitional, purposive nature of human activity as opposed to its constrained, determined aspects” (Jary and Jary 1995, 10). During the last decade of the twentieth

This essay may be found on page 10 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay

Leave a Comment