By Melanie J. Fishbane
Master’s Thesis, Concordia University, 2003
Abstract: Studying history helps to create and reinforce a collective historical consciousness within Western society. Certain historical figures become consistent characters in the creation of our understanding of our humanity, which is then reintegrated into the historical consciousness. Literature for children is one of the ways in which society reinforces important historical figures and western society’s perceptions of our historical past. Non-fiction, historical fiction and biographical writing are the three genres writers of children’s literature use to teach children history. Joan of Arc has been manipulated by historians, writers and artists to become whatever was necessary for the particular society to believe in at the time. The consistency of Joan of Arc in the historical consciousness and her popularity among writers for children is not a coincidence. The fact that her personality and physical image is intangible and, therefore, a mystery, makes it easy for writers to make Joan into the person that they wish her to be. Currently, in our historical consciousness, Joan symbolizes patriotism, medieval chivalry, pop feminism, spirituality and heroism. The popularity Joan of Arc in contemporary children’s literature is a result of and indeed part of the continual creation and re-interpretation of Western society’s historical consciousness.