A Magic Bag: The Power of Confectionery in the Lives of Australian Children

Toni Risson (2011). A Magic Bag: The Power of Confectionery in the Lives of Australian Children PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Toni Risson
Thesis Title A Magic Bag: The Power of Confectionery in the Lives of Australian Children
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Toni Johnson-Woods
Dr David Carter
Total pages 215
Total colour pages 9
Total black and white pages 206
Language eng
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary Fairy floss is pure sugar: watching someone conjure bolls of pink gossamer from a fairy floss machine is pure magic. If the production of confectionery is like alchemy, confectionery counters have the power to cast a spell upon young consumers and, furthermore, children’s consumption offers escape from the ordinary into the realm of the fabulous and enchanting. Because of this extraordinary appeal, confectionery is still synonymous with childhood, despite David Gillespie’s recent claim that sugar is Sweet Poison (2008), and it performs an ever-increasing number of roles in a multitude of spaces across the physical and cultural landscape of Australia. One might assume that the appeal of confectionery is simply gustatory, but confectionery has more in common with fairytales than food. This is a thesis about lollies, an Australian term for the cheap sugar confectionery bought mostly by children. In particular, it examines the role lollies played in Australian childhood throughout the twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. By repositioning sugar confectionery as magic, it challenges dominant narratives of devaluation and demonisation that reduce the complexity of lollies and their cultural significance. I propose that the social world is made up of two separate and hierarchical domains—the ordinary world and the magical world—and that lollies belong to the latter, a proposition based on Emile Durkheim’s two-world model. Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnivalesque “second world” (6) corresponds with children’s experience of lollies as magic and reveals the subversive potential of confectionery because it inverts hierarchical norms, thereby elevating coarse laughter, food throwing, and the grotesque body. After first developing the idea of a magical world, this thesis employs five magic tropes from popular literary story lands to explore five aspects of the power that lollies exert over, and bestow upon, children. Using Wonderland as a food model for the early decades of the twentieth century, Chapters Two and Three link the power of lollies to deprivation and to the jewel-like spectacle of the lolly counter. Chapter Four explores the use of lollies as toys, especially in the postwar period, when the expanding world of children’s entertainment paralleled the lands above Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. The child as consumer is then examined: since lollies are cheap, they give children their first taste of consumer power and demonstrate children’s sophistication and influence in the marketplace. Finally, I explore the subversive nature of lollies and the disgust produced by the violation of food norms, both increasingly evident toward the end of the century. Lollies are simultaneously enchanting and empowering. As magical objects in an ordinary world, they represent luxury, beauty, fun, consumer power, and subversive pleasure as well as gustatory adventure.
Keyword lollies, confectionery, australian, childhood, popular culture, magic, disgust, children’s literature, baby-boomers, sugar
Additional Notes 90, 94, 98, 103, 105, 131, 141, 177, 185

 
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Created: Wed, 16 Nov 2011, 14:41:21 EST by Ms Toni Risson on behalf of Library - Information Access Service