Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Catherine Keyser

Abstract

While American children’s literature scholars have analyzed issues of Christianity broadly, and there are many considerations of Roman Catholicism within European children’s literature scholarship, there is a lack of scholarly discourse regarding Roman Catholicism within children’s literature published in the United States. This dissertation considers how North American children’s and adolescent literature approach the issues that preoccupied North American Roman Catholicism post-Vatican II as well as how such portrayals have impacted readers’ understanding of the faith during this vital period of transition within the Church. Chapter 1 focuses on the way young adult literature published in the early 1970s addressed the conflict between America’s movement towards gender equality and Roman Catholicism’s patriarchal hierarchy as well as its stance in favor of traditional gender roles. Focusing on the works of prolific picture book author and illustrator Tomie dePaola, chapter 2 considers his approach to topics ground in Roman Catholic traditions that secularize the faith and underscore the assimilation of Italian Americans into mainstream American culture during this time. Chapter 3 analyzes several award-winning texts by Latinx authors and the way they utilize Roman Catholicism as the main representation of Latin American ideology that is regularly in conflict with the protagonists' developing American identities and lifestyles. My final chapter compares the portrayals of Catholic Indian residential schools in children’s and adolescent literature published within the United States and Canada to consider what these representations communicate about the

level of accountability each country holds the Church to when confronting this cultural genocide. The authors of post-Vatican II children’s and adolescent fiction explore conflicts between traditional Catholic values and modern American ideals. These texts not only mirror the concerns of the Roman Catholic community during this pivotal time, but the way these issues were and continue to be expressed to the next generation helps shape the widespread understanding of these discussions, and in turn the American Roman Catholic Church itself, as we progress further into the post-Vatican II era.

Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2025

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