2004
Volume 27 Number 3
  • ISSN: 1384-5829
  • E-ISSN: 2352-118X

Abstract

Abstract

From a Dutch as well as an international perspective, eighteenth-century children’s books have received little attention from ecocritically inspired scholars so far, despite of the fact that these books structurally reflect relationships between human beings and their natural environment. I argue that these relationships are often depicted as ambiguous: human beings are connected to their environment because of both their resemblances and vital differences. Specifically focusing on two Dutch children’s books – Willem Emmery de Perponcher’s (1741-1819) (1782) and Johan Hendrik Swildens’ (1746-1809) (1781) – I demonstrate that this ambivalent discourse fits into the didactical ambition to nurture citizens who were able to reflect on their social and political conditions and could actively contribute to socio-political improvement. De Perponcher and Swildens helped young readers to reflect on their position in a wider ecosystem, in which human beings, animals and nature exist in an equilibrium. As this equilibrium was implied to be a crucial precondition for the political social and economic harmony in Dutch society, the future stability of the ‘fatherland’ was imagined to be dependent on the ‘ecoliteracy’ of new generations: the skills to ‘read’ and understand the world as an organic whole in which everything is interconnected.

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