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The reforming influence of Utopian socialism on aspirations towards a recognizable cultural identity and political independence was expressed in a variety of intriguingly analogous national forms and images.
In 1871, a tiny nation, just four years old — it's population well below the 4 million mark — determined that it would build the world's longest railroad across empty country, much of it unexplored. This decision — bold to the point of recklessness — was to change the lives of every man, woman and child in Canada and alter the shape of the nation. Using primary sources — diaries, letters, unpublished manuscripts, public documents and newspapers — Pierre Berton has reconstructed the incredible decade of the 1870s, when Canadians of every stripe — contractors, politicians, financiers, surveyors, workingmen, journalists and entrepreneurs — fought for the railway, or against it. The National Dream is above all else the story of people. It is the story of George McMullen, the brash young promoter who tried to blackmail the Prime Minister; of Marcus Smith, the crusty surveyor, so suspicious of authority he thought the Governor General was speculating in railway lands; of Sanford Fleming, the great engineer who invented Standard Time but who couldn't make up his mind about the best route for the railway. All these figures, and dozens more, including the political leaders of the era, come to life with all their human ambitions and failings.
Fairy tales and folktales have long been mainstays of children's literature, celebrated as imaginatively liberating, psychologically therapeutic, and mirrors of foreign culture. Focusing on the fairy tale in nineteenth-century England, where many collections found their largest readership, National Dreams examines influential but critically neglected early experiments in the presentation of international tale traditions to English readers. Jennifer Schacker looks at such wondrous story collections as Grimms' fairy tales and The Arabian Nights in order to trace the larger stories of cross-cultural encounter in which these books were originally embedded. Examining aspects of publishing history alongside her critical readings of tale collections' introductions, annotations, story texts, and illustrations, Schacker's National Dreams reveals the surprising ways fairy tales shaped and were shaped by their readers. Schacker shows how the folklore of foreign lands became popular reading material for a broad English audience, historicizing assumed connections between traditional narrative and children's reading. The tales imported and presented by such British writers as Edgar Taylor, T. Crofton Croker, Edward Lane, and George Webbe Dasent were intended to stimulate readers' imaginations in more ways than one. Fairy-tale collections provided flights of fancy but also opportunities for reflection on the modern self, on the transformation of popular culture, and on the nature of "Englishness." Schacker demonstrates that such critical reflections were not incidental to the popularity of foreign tales but central to their magical hold on the English imagination. Offering a theoretically sophisticated perspective on the origins of current assumptions about the significance of fairy tales, National Dreams provides a rare look at the nature and emergence of one of the most powerful and enduring genres in English literature.

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