European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies (EJELLS)

EA Journals

Black Death

Of Deception and Dogma: The Delusive History behind Nursery Rhymes. (Published)

This self-deceit, this fatal weakness of mankind, is the source of half       the disorders of human life.” (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.)Children’s literature is essentially a literature of deception. Just as Aesop’s Fables preach moral truths in the guise of fables, many nursery rhymes born of contemporary socio economic turbulence, bespeaks of trauma, murders, gore, sexuality or death through the apparent lucidity of nursery rhymes. Just as Rossetti’s Ferry Me across the River may be read as a deep philosophical poem on Death and the Final Passage over the river Lethe, her Goblin Market (often read as a children’s rhyme) bespeaks of homosexuality and hides a feminist subtext. From Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, often included in the domain of children’s fiction to Philip Pullman’s Dark Matter Trilogy for children permeates with its re-readings of Anti- Christian ideology, it is hardly surprising that most nursery rhymes have meanings deeper than the reach of their intended audience. So the question arises-

“How and why do people tell a lie?  One  useful  approach  to  addressing  this  question  is  to elucidate  the  neural  substrates  for  deception.  Recent  conceptual  and  technical advances in functional neuroimaging have enabled exploration of the psychology of deception  more  precisely  in  terms  of  the  specific  neuroanatomical mechanisms involved. A growing body of evidence suggests that the prefrontal cortex plays a key role in deception, and some researches have recently emphasised the importance of other brain regions, such as those responsible for emotion and reward. However, it is still unclear how these regions play a role in making effective decisions to tell a lie” (Nobuhito, Abe).

How the Brain Shapes Deception. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US) But deception arises with a need for concealment, here, in the case of nursery rhymes, often to hide the more obnoxious dimensions of the truth. An obvious choice is to tell an outright lie, but it is also possible to deceive others by avoiding the truth, obfuscating the truth, exaggerating the truth, or casting doubt on the truth. Just as these processes are useful in deceiving others, they can also be useful in deceiving the self. Why would people deceive themselves? What is the mental architecture that enables the same person to be both deceiver and deceived? How does self-deception manifest itself psychologically? And how far do its roots travel into nursery rhymes are some questions that intend to be addressed in this paper.

Keywords: Black Death, London Fire, Medieval prostitution, Nursery Rhymes, Paedophilia, Slave Trade, children’s literature

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