CFP – Atrocity in Children’s Literature

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CFP: Atrocity in Children’s Literature
Collection edited by Victoria Nesfield and Philip Smith

“But what, then, is a naturalistic writer for children to do? Can he present the child with evil and an insoluble problem…. To give a child a picture of… gas chambers… or famines or the cruelties of a psychotic patient, and say, ‘Well, baby, this is how it is, what are you going to make of it?’ – that is surely unethical. If you suggest that there is a ‘solution’ to these monstrous facts, you are lying to the child. If you insist that there isn’t, you are overwhelming him with a load he is not strong enough yet to carry.”
-Ursula Le Guin, The Language of the Night, 1992

Atrocity, as Ursula Le Guin suggests, presents a problem to the writer of children’s literature. To represent events of such terrible magnitude and impersonal will as the Holocaust, the Transatlantic Slave Trade or the Rwandan Genocide such that they fit into a three-act structure with a comprehensible moral (to serve, in the words of Adrienne Kertzer, “our need for hope and happy endings”) is to do a disservice to the victims. Yet to confront the child with the fact of wide-scale violence without resolution is, Le Guin argues, to confront him of her with realities which may be emotionally disturbing and even damaging.

Others, among them CS Lewis and Elizabeth R Baer, have argued, conversely, that children’s literature represents an ideal site for (to use Baer’s term) “confrontational” texts, where children can first encounter historical truths in a safe and guided environment. These concerns can be even more pressing when one considers that the audience for such works may, themselves, be victims of atrocity either directly or by heritage. In such settings a literature of atrocity may help a child to make sense of his or her own life or the lives of his or her parents and grandparents.

Even if we accept the value of children’s literature which addresses atrocity, however, problems remain. Scholars such as Lawrence L Langer argue that the ethics of atrocity literature must be tempered by the question of what can be articulated – that atrocity as a lived experience must remain, at least in part, beyond the possibility of representation.

Despite these challenges, the question of atrocity remains a recurring theme in children’s literature. The 1980s saw an outpouring of works which engaged with the Holocaust and the trend shows no sign of abating, with new works such as (to name just one) Gavriel Savit’s Anna and the Swallow Man (2017). Indeed, the features of Holocaust literature for children have informed other texts which approach the question of atrocity such as, as Yoo Kyung Sung argues, Korean picture books which concern the lives of “comfort women” during World War II.

This edited collection seeks original contributions on the problem of atrocity in children’s literature. We are particularly interested in contributions which engage with comics for children, recent or otherwise under-discussed works, and international children’s literature. We welcome literary analysis, arguments which take a historical view, and reports from education professionals.

Abstracts of 100-200 words due by January 15. First drafts will be due June 15. Please send proposals to atrocityinchildrenslit@gmail.com.

Drs. Victoria Nesfield and Philip Smith are co-editors of The Struggle for Understanding: The Fiction of Elie Wiesel (forthcoming from SUNY Press in 2019). Dr. Philip Smith is the author of Reading Art Spiegelman (Routledge, 2015).

CFP – Beyond Boundaries: Authorship and Readership in Life Writing

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Call for papers: Beyond Boundaries: Authorship and Readership in Life Writing
A two-day conference held at Tilburg University, the Netherlands, 24 and 25 October 2019

In “The Limits of Life Writing” David McCooey (2017) argues that in life-writing studies, the concept of limits or boundaries plays a central role. Since the rise of auto/biography studies in the 1970s and 1980s critical attention has been paid to generic limits and the limits concerning the auto/biographical subject. With respect to the former, discussions have evolved in particular around the boundaries between literary and factual writing, and between verbal, graphic, audio-visual and digital forms of life writing. In regard to the latter, academics since the 1990s have given attention to the expansion of auto/biographical subjects previously marginalized, which has deepened, among other things, the cross-cultural understanding of experience and identity. This expansion of auto/biographical subjects, but also the rise of social media as a medium for life writing have contested the limits of selfhood.

However, some other limits have gone largely unnoticed in life-writing research so far. Two of them will be the center of attention during this conference, one having to do with readership, and the other concerned with authorship. Until now little attention has been paid to the boundaries between life writing for adults on the one hand and life writing for young readers on the other. Crossing these boundaries can provide fruitful debates about how the reader matters and how studying the reception and addressed audiences of life writing is important.

Another issue that has not received much attention in life writing research is the boundary between life writing by adult authors and life narratives by young people. As Douglas and Poletti (2016) argue, the contribution of young writers to life writing has so far been largely overlooked. How do they relate to narratives by adults? How similar or different are the ways in which adult and young writers engage in modes of self-representation? And what is the influence of social media on life writing by young people?

We welcome presentations on authorship and readership in different forms of life writing by adult and young authors, marketed to adult and young readers. To what extent do authors use life writing to put issues of power, voice and agency on the public agenda? How do readers matter in the way authors of life writing address themselves to them? What are the similarities and differences between life writing for an adult audience and for young readers? What aspects define (successful) dual-audience life writing?

As life writing is relevant for academic disciplines such as the humanities and social sciences, in particular children’s literature, literature and culture studies, ethnography, anthropology and philosophy, we look forward to receiving proposals from researchers working in these fields, and to discussing disciplinary boundaries at the conference.

Subthemes are

  • Cultural diversity
  • Transnational life writing
  • Life writing in text and images
  • Offline and online life writing
  • Gender issues in life writing
  • LGTBQ life writing
  • Dual-audience life writing
  • Creating childhoods through life writing

Keynote speakers (confirmed): Prof.dr. Anna Poletti (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) and prof.dr. Lydia Kokkola (Lulea University, Sweden)

Conference organizers: Prof.dr. Helma van Lierop (Tilburg University), Dr. Jane McVeigh (University of Roehampton), Dr. Monica Soeting (European Journal of Life Writing)

Abstracts consisting of a maximum of 250 words, a title, an indication of the subtheme your abstract fits in best, name, institutional affiliation or status as independent scholar, email address and a short bio of no more than 150 words should be sent before 15 March 2019 to Prof.Dr. Helma van Lierop at h.vanlierop@tilburguniversity.edu.

CFP – Radical Young People’s Literature and Culture

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Conference call for papers: Radical Young People’s Literature and Culture
The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature
Friday, 29 and Saturday, 30 March 2019
Marino Institute of Education, Dublin 9, Ireland
Keynote address: Professor Kimberley Reynolds

It is now over ten years since Kimberley Reynolds highlighted the importance of radical dimensions of children’s literature in her book, Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. Texts for young people have always been embedded in norms, concepts and systems regarding socialisation, education, and enculturation and offer empowering and disempowering possibilities for everyone who engages with them. Concepts of childhood, youth literature and youth culture are situated and operate within diverse contexts and contested spaces which are negotiated by readers, audiences, publishers, creative industries, authors, librarians, teachers, families, gate keepers, institutions, cultural movements, and political and religious groups. Radical youth literature challenges dominant expectations and norms about childhood, society, socialisation, and young people’s reading, acts as a force for change and encourages children and young adults to question the authority of those in power. In today’s world, the role and liberating possibilities of radical youth culture and literature have become even more urgent.

This conference will explore the experimental, subversive and/or disruptive potential of Irish and international literature and culture for young people. The conference will also consider the extent to which children’s and young-adult texts and culture can promote, cultivate and/or establish radical representations and ideas. In what ways is today’s radical youth literature different from that of earlier decades? What contemporary issues are addressed in radical youth literature and culture and how? To what extent have publishing, schools, libraries, multimedia and entertainment industries engaged with radical youth texts and radical youth culture? How is radical children’s and young adult literature and culture created, distributed, enacted and experienced?

Please email an abstract and a biographical note to isscl.committee@gmail.com by 5pm Friday, 7 December 2018. You will be notified of the outcome of the selection process in mid January 2019. 250-350-word abstracts are welcomed but not limited to the below areas and themes. Cuirfear fáilte roimh pháipéir trí Ghaeilge.

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Sexualities
  • Age and ageing
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Embodiment
  • Performativity
  • Social engagement
  • Children’s rights
  • Engagement with new media, technologies, film, television, theatre etc.
  • Adaptation and/or translation
  • Visual narratives e.g. picturebooks, comics
  • Radical forms and/or genres
  • Fandom and fan cultures
  • Disruptive texts