Goodnight Noises Everywhere: Horror, Knowledge, and Children's Literature

 

Children's literature often contends with productions of knowledge, whether through child characters, child readers, or both. This interest, however, resists the implications of mastery generally associated with the concept of knowledge. In writing for children, "knowing" often denies closure or total comprehension, pointing us towards alternate ways of conceptualizing that term, as reliant on absence for definition. 

 

This rethinking enables us to see how horror is a central component of writing for/read by young people, from the Grimms' slaughter play to Neil Gaiman's nightmare Others in Coraline. As a genre, horror is structured around the destabilization of assumed epistemologies, in that it subverts and upends what we think we know to be true. By refusing narrative closure or reassurance, horror children's literature rejects a linear continuum wherein child characters and child readers progress from uniformed to fully knowledgable. This is an explicit reframing that enables us to recognize the instability of knowledge in other, non-horror texts for young people. Horror is not the only genre of children's literature to position "knowing" as inherently ripe with fissures and breaches, but its uncompromising focus on that practice is an invitation to reassess what we think we understand about writing for children more broadly.
 

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