May 28, 2010

Merrycoz is new to blogging, though has been online since 1999. (Eleven years! And people still can’t spell my name correctly!) The site is a growing anthology of works for (and sometimes by) children, from 1788 to 1873. Some works for adults also show up there, in a collection of whatever I feel like transcribing.

For the last 30+ years, I’ve cultivated an enduring interest in children’s literature, past & present. I teach children’s lit of the present in the English department of a state university. I collect American magazines and books for children of the past — hence the web site. It’s a place where I can post things, connect things, point out things.

I thought it might be fun to try a blog. Here I plan to announce changes to the merrycoz site, to keep track of what I’m working on for the site, and to comment on things having to do with children’s lit, past and present.

About me: I’m an English prof. I’ve been a reader since childhood and earned a B.A. in English lit from the University of Missouri–Columbia, mostly so I could read and earn a degree at the same time. Rummaging through the library stacks, I found Eleanor Cameron’s The Green & Burning Tree and realized that children’s books could be analyzed in the same way I was analyzing Shakespeare & Milton.

After a brief stint taking ID pictures at Mizzou, I went to Eastern
Michigan University, to earn an M.A. in English with an emphasis in
children’s lit. My last project there was an independent study project
annotating C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books — the manuscript of which I tried
to get published. Too late for that project (a couple guides were already being published), but it led to my first scholarly book: A Reference Guide to Modern Fantasy for Children — still in print; you should buy a copy.

The Reference Guide was written during my first two years earning a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. It was a nice, big project (the typing alone took an entire month of 11-hour days — soap operas helped) which made writing my doctoral dissertaion seem like an interesting little paper (written in six months — and, yes, soap operas helped). Switching from the program in English to the program in American Studies turned out to be one of those marvelous life-changers: American lit! American culture! American (gulp!) history! All those lovely, lovely books! (And an excuse to read E.D.E.N. Southworth novels!)

Meanwhile, I’d had another pivotal moment. Writing a piece on the
Youth’s Temperance Advocate for R. Gordon Kelly’s Children’s Periodicals of the United States (never have I wanted to drink as much as I did while researching that little temperance magazine, which kept mentioning “ruby wines” & “sparkling wines” & tempting liquor…), I realized that I absolutely adore this stuff. It’s poorly written, it’s sometimes-outlandish, and it’s just the most fascinating stuff on the planet. So my dissertation just had to be on a 19th-century children’s magazine.

I chose Robert Merry’s Museum. (The updated dissertation is online at And I’ve continued to choose it, again and again. It’s the nucleus of my research and of my book collection. Since 1985, I’ve collected pre-1873 American magazines and books for children; works by and about the Museum‘s founder, Samuel Griswold Goodrich; little bits and pieces created by 19th-century American children; and works that appeared in the Museum. I spend far too much money on the collection and far too little time on research.

But, hey: I get to read.


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