Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Casey A. Cothran

Committee Member

Siobhan Brownson

Committee Member

William F. Naufftus


Though Charles Kingsley’s mid-nineteenth century children’s book, The Water-Babies, is generally out of favor with canons of Victorian or children’s literature, I argue that The Water-Babies is a highly adaptable text because it is made up of conjoined opposites. The text’s multiplicity of form and content as well as its emphasis on imagination make the The Water-Babies malleable for variation and adaptation, while the approach Kingsley took to the child audience prepared the text for an indefinite future readership. Moreover, the work’s initial intent to be utilized for social change and the proto-environmentalist messages already present in the text situate The Water-Babies as particularly prone to ecocritical readings. By reading into Kingsley’s own life and varying influences, observing the inconsistencies in style and genre in the work itself, and arguing that the book’s ideological moral is to merge dualisms, I consider the possibility that The Water-Babies has potential staying power as an adaptation suited to modern environmental and humanitarian concerns mapped onto the narrative of a boy who explores, learns, and grows.