This study explores reasons for Enid Blyton’s vast popularity. Blyton and her life are discussed in terms of the production and reception of her texts in the light of changing dominant discourses in society and varying horizons of expectation. It has been found that selected aspects of reception theory (in particular the horizon of expectation posited by Hans-Georg Gadamer and developed by Hans Jauss) and the theories of Michel Foucault on power and discourse can be used to examine the influence of societal and literary discourses on both Blyton’s writing and on those who read her work, including adults and children. The study includes a discussion of Blyton’s personal life, her role in education and her success in business. Blyton’s horizons of expectation – shaped not only by the dominant discourses that surrounded her, but also her training in the Froebel method of education – are examined. Furthermore, a number of aspects of Blyton’s life and writing subvert dominant discourses and these are discussed in terms of Foucault’s ideas on power relations. Evidence of the influence of her life on her work has been found in her texts. The criticism of Blyton is discussed in terms of both literary criticism and social criticism. Blyton’s popularity as a storyteller is also considered and it has been found that, regardless of criticism by adults, she remained popular with children. Furthermore, Blyton used a number of specific techniques (such as fast-paced plots and simple language and style) and it has been found that her techniques can be linked to both formula writing, the oral tradition, and to her training as a teacher in the Froebel method of education. These techniques are examined in terms of their manifestation in her writing, particularly in her series books – including adventure stories and school stories. In conclusion, the place of Blyton’s writing in contemporary society is deliberated and recommendations for further research are made.
Dissertation (MA (English))--University of Pretoria, 2003.