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The British boy detective: origins, forms, functions, 1865-1940

Andrew, Lucy 2014. The British boy detective: origins, forms, functions, 1865-1940. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis explores the early development of the British boy detective in ‘penny dreadfuls’ and story papers from 1865-1940 and considers how the construction of this figure addresses contemporary social anxieties surrounding boyhood and performs an ideological function for boy readers. Chapter 1 focuses on how the representation of the boy detective in the ‘penny-dreadful’ The Boy Detective (1865-6) responds to anxieties about juvenile delinquency, particularly the perceived corrupting influence of ‘penny dreadfuls’ upon boy readers. Chapter 2 examines the first appearances of the adult professional detective’s boy assistant in the Harmsworths’ boys’ story papers of the 1890s and early twentieth century. Here, the representation of the detective’s assistant is linked to the emergence of anxieties surrounding adolescence. Chapter 3 explores the centralisation of the professional boy detective, as either assistant or independent investigator, in story-paper narratives in the first decade of the twentieth century. These texts are considered in relation to anxieties about the impending threat of war and boys’ future role in the defence of a declining British Empire. Chapter 4 explores the increasing restrictions placed upon the professional boy detective in the post-1910 story-paper narratives in which he is largely confined to the assistant role. I make connections between this subsidiary position and the supporting defence roles to which real-life boys were confined in preparation for and during the First World War. Chapter 5 focuses upon the fictional boy detective’s relocation from a professional, adult arena to an amateur, child-centric environment in schoolboy detective narratives. This transition is considered in relation to childhood’s increasing distinction from adulthood in the early twentieth century. Overall, the thesis considers the boy detective as a dual figure, acting simultaneously as a threat in need of containment and a boyhood role model and thus utilised as both an expression of and antidote to the contemporary adult anxieties about boyhood.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2019 02:05
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/62426

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