Ett stort varuhus i en stor stad: Dagdrömmar och konsumtionskritik i barnlitteraturen
Title: A Big Department Store in a Big City. Daydreams and Consumer Criticism in Children’s Literature
In advertising, marketing, and product catalogs from the first decades of the 20th century, the newly launched department stores often describe their toy departments as a ”fairy tale world”, ”children’s paradise” or ”toy land”. They are depicted as spaces for play and enjoyment, but above all, as spaces for daydreams. These expressions and images – loaded with messages and ideals about children, consumption, and modernity – were quickly transferred to children’s literature. Based on research from advertising history as well as modernism and modernity studies, the article discusses how the department store in the mid-1900s becomes a new variant of the Schlaraffenland or the Cockaigne motif in Scandinavian children’s literature. Focusing on stories published between 1933 and 1965, depictions of children as consumers and the child’s interaction with the department store and its products are investigated. In the studied stories, different variations of the Schlaraffenland motif – excess of toys, experiences, and food – are used to playfully depict hildren’s encounters with the commodity world, but also to investigate questions about the individual’s responsibilities as a consumer and ideas about individuality, freedom, and modernity.
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