Generic Mutability and the Pedagogy of Realism in Charlotte Smith’s The Romance of Real Life and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life

This paper investigates the didactic and pedagogic values of Romantic realism by looking at the ways in which Wollstonecraft and Smith, in particular, experiment with the synthesis of Romance and history and how these experiments form the core of their pedagogical projects undertaken within the growing genre of children’s prose. Wollstonecraft’s and Smith’s productions for young readers address the anxiety about women’s ability to employ historical fact and realism in serious literature and replace women’s “state of perpetual childhood” with the powerful roles of educator and arbitrator. But these authors also help create a hybrid genre that allows them to temper history with the attractiveness of Romance and to elevate fiction by infusing it with realism, thus turning fiction into a medium that can address history, society, and all aspects of “real life” as it acts as a powerful pedagogical tool on young minds.