10.30-11.50 Parallel panels session 1
Panel 1: Nostalgia ~ Jacqueline du Pré theatre
Philip Gaydon, “Securing Happiness through Nostalgic Children’s Texts” (Warwick University)
Children’s literature and the feeling of nostalgia appear to be almost necessarily entwined in a variety of ways and the majority of us are often nostalgic about our childhood and the texts that evoke memories of it. The first section of this talk will look at some of the psychological explanations in the works of Tim Wildschut, Clay Routledge, Constantine Sedikes, and Xinyue Zhou for why we engage with nostalgia and how it might make us happy. The second section will look at how nostalgic works have been regularly denounced in children’s literature criticism by academics such as U. C. Knoepflmacher, Maria Nikolajeva, and Perry Nodelman. What precisely is so repugnant about being nostalgic for an idealised notion of childhood is rarely clarified in such criticism so this section will also bring to bear the philosophical theoriesof Anthony Saville and Ira Newman to help crystallise what is objectionable about nostalgia: its violation of an ethics of memory; its sacrificing of the object of emotion for self-gratification; and the rift it causes between adult-author and child-reader. These criticisms demonstrate why nostalgic children’s texts potentially cannot, and perhaps should not even attempt to, bring about happiness in any deep and lasting sense. The final section of the talk, however, will distinguish texts that are nostalgic for an idealised image of childhood from texts that are nostalgic for childlike qualities. Nostalgia of the latter kind will be shown to actually house a fruitful and responsible source of happiness for both adult and child readers of children’s literature as it helps promote and reinvigorate a mind-set of wonder and humility in a way that capitalises on some of the psychological benefits mentioned in the first section of the talk whilst avoiding the pitfalls of the second.
John Parkin, “Les Enfants Risibles: Comic Portrayals of Childhood in French Literature” (University of Bristol)
This paper will examine the variously comic accounts of four different French authors, namely Jules Vallès, Georges Duhamel, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and HervéBazin. Between 1878 (Vallès, L’Enfant) and 1948 (Bazin, Vipère au poing) all of them wrote semi-autobiographical novels depicting their own childhoods in which rebellion against parenthood is set against the charm of naïveté, and a critique of parental oppression, adultery and self-interest clashes with a persistent sense of identity sought if not always found within the family. These contrasts form a rich source of humour for those seeking it; otherwise the psychological development from innocent infancy towards adult self-awareness provides a countervailing serious relief. In concentrating principally on the former pattern, the paper will seek to deploy a theory of humour developed by myself over many years, but not thus far applied in detail to relatively modern fiction. This theory involves the distinction of satiric modes which presuppose hostility (e.g. of children towards parents, or the just towards the unjust), from parodic modes which depend on relief from serious values, which can be laid aside (as when one indulges the child’s eye view) or else inverted (as when one applauds the naughty child who probably lurks in all of us). The fluid interpenetration of these modes, dependent in major part on one’s own temperamental predisposition, offers rich opportunities variously exploited by the four chosen authors.
Anna Derelkowska-Misiuna, “The Idyllic Childhood, the Loss, and the New Beginning in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s The Story Girl and Pat Books” (University of Warsaw)
Lucy Maud Montgomery was 37 when in 1911 she wrote in The Story Girl: ‘[children] do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life.’ The book is a nostalgic description of a few happy and careless months spent by a group of children on an old Prince Edward Island farm. It is only in the sequel to this book, The Golden Road, written two years later, that the idyll falls apart as the children start to grow up and the inevitable changes approach. At the age of 39 Montgomery, who had just got married and left her beloved Prince Edward Island, ended the book with an image of a bend on the road, behind which lies the unknown. Twenty years later, depressed and disillusioned, she recycled the topic of the lost fairyland in her books Pat of Silver Bush (1933) and Mistress Pat (1935), in which she described a girl’s childhood and early adulthood on a farm. This time is happy at first, but as Pat grows older, she loses everything she has ever loved and that made her childhood so happy. Although the ending is optimistic, the feeling of sadness prevails in the books. In my paper I am going to discuss Montgomery’s images of childhood idyll, her notion of growing up as a loss, and her two different approaches to what can be gained once the price of loss is paid.
Panel 2: Virtue ~ Lady Brodie room
Juliana Diaz Baldocchi, “Happy Princes: An Analysis of Different Definitions of Happiness in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde” (University of Roehampton)
In this paper, I focus on two child-prince characters, Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Antoine de St. Exupery’s The Little Prince,who contest the definition of happiness by drawing a sharp contrast between the respective ways grown-ups and children view the world. Both texts, by including child and animal characters, challenge adults’ continuous pursuit for unachievable happiness and suggest paying attention to simple actions, moments and cherished relationships. In order to recast this definition, I draw upon Aristotle’s approach to eudemonia as long-term flourishing rather than fleeting pleasure, and will pay particular attention to his thoughts on friendship and altruistic friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics.
The Little Prince and The Happy Prince confirm Lauren Berlant’s thesis in which she says that something you desire is an obstacle to your flourishing. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne and some new age positive psychologists, St Exupery and Wilde propose that it is not necessary to get onto the hedonic treadmill; instead, ‘Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you’ (Hawthorne). Therefore, it is interesting to note how recent research in positive psychology and the happiness system contributes to Children’s Literature criticism.
Fateha Aziz, “What Does It Mean to Be Happy? The Notion of Happiness in Terry Pratchett’s Series of Johnny Maxwell (1992-1996) and Tiffany Aching (2003-2010)” (University of Worcester)
This paper aims to explore notion of happiness as portrayed in the series of Johnny Maxwell (1992-1996) and Tiffany Aching (2003-2010) by Terry Pratchett. Taken out of Pratchett’s corpus of children’s fiction, these two series are selected because the two protagonists’ predicaments and understanding of happiness experience shifts throughout the series, parallel to their growing up. By comparing their personal characteristics,the predicaments they find themselves in and what they classify as making them happy, this paper seeks to examine Pratchett’s portrayals of children’s perceptions of happiness as well as sources of unhappiness and how these affect their lives in the contemporary world.
Timothy J. Sharp (2009) wrote that there is nothing “mystical or magical” (2) when it comes to happiness. Instead, happiness is made up of choices that people make using various methods of dealing with their life and the world on a daily basis. Johnny is portrayed as being emotionally affected by his parents’ separation. While Johnny does not actively seek alternative ways to be happy, he finds it satisfactory and even enjoyable when he gets to solve the problems that he stumbles upon; his satisfaction proven by his positive note at the end of each book.
Tiffany, a teenaged witch, finds any oppression as upsetting. She deliberately decides to become a witch so that she could rectify this social malaise. Tiffany’s happiness is more explicitly portrayed as her success in defending the powerless and the abused. Johnny and Tiffany are polar opposites but this notion of attaining happiness via unselfish acts is the one particular point that makes them similar. By relating to this, this paper therefore aims to examine the significance of the pursuit of happiness to the characters’ process of growing up and understanding the world they live in.
Isabel Pinto, “Tangled Rainbows in Comédies et Proverbes” (Portuguese Catholic University)
The present debate around happiness tends to be two-fold: on one hand, psychology endorses positive psychology, claiming to give guidance to the concepts that lead to well-being and happiness (Harvard University, 2011); on the other hand, cultural critics assume a provocative position, on the basis of the moral connotations of happiness and how they are used to maintain a dominant social order (Ahmed, 2010).
Some of the plays in Comédies et Proverbes (1865), by Sophie Rostopchine, comtesse de Ségur, elaborate on this controversy by introducing children forced to deal with social complexity, in order to learn how to live and behave. Still happiness emerges as goal, although, in this case, attending to it is never a simple task. It implies making choices and differentiating right from wrong on its own. Accordingly, in the comedy Les Caprices de Gizelle, Gizelle and her young aunts are systematically driven into opposing situations where they must take a side or do a choice to defend their identity. In another play from the same book, Le Diner de Mademoiselle Justine, the brothers Caroline and Théodore are at the center of the plot, because their innocence and simplicity make them the voice of truth: they carry out justice towards the servants Hilaire and Sidonie. But, again, children are constantly pushed into the tangled corner of right and wrong, amidst a scenario of punishment and hardship.
Thus, the main subject of this paper is the dangerous liaison between childhood and conflict, and identity and social realm, in the two texts above, as to analyze a concept of childhood that relays on daily life as a maximum challenge towards harmony and happiness. To do that, we will borrow core concepts from both psychology and cultural criticism, like learning, emotion and identity.
Panel 3: Narrative and Literary Genres ~ Vernon Harcourt room
Karla Fernández de Gamboa Vázquez , “Did They Live Happily Ever after? Picturebooks with Negative Endings” (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Psychoanalysis, and especially Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (1976), appreciated in such a positive way the calming virtue of the happy endings that led this school of critical thinking to reject all the unhappy closures found in Children’s Literature. Nevertheless, the dénouements of Children’s and Young Adult’s Literature of the last few decades have experienced a transformation. Currently, there are open, negative or mixed endings as well a new variation of the traditional happy ending: the acceptance of the conflict (Colomer 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010). The employment of new endings, but particularly the use of the negative closure has been controversial; the discussion has commonly lied upon the issues of moral adequacy, of the psychological assimilation and comprehension from the children’s understanding of the world, and whether this literature will help infants develop as readers.
This article underlies in a work-in-progress research which aims at apperceiving the children readers’ response towards picture books with negative endings, as well as the expectations of those who wait for positive dénouements. However, the aim of this paper is to respond to questions such as what an ending is (Aristotle; Kermode, 1967), what a negative ending is or to observe if negative closures do always imply grief. Additionally, the definition of this concept will be incorporated in relation to Structuralism or the thematic field. To support this thesis and classify the different negative closures found in Children’s literature, several picturebooks selected as representative of those dénouements will be analysed (Tony Ross, Saki, Christian Voltz, or Emily Gravett, among others.)
Victoria de Rijke , “Losing the Happy Ending? Dark Play and Unease in Children’s Literature” (Middlesex University)
‘I think we should all be as uneasy as possible, because that’s what the world is like.’
[Edward Gorey, Ascending Peculiarity (2002)]
In The Shadow of the Object, Christopher Bollas develops the psychoanalytic insights of DW Winnicott and Melanie Klein to explore affect when object relations are ‘cast into shadow’. Lost objects are frequently a trope of children’s literature. Sean Tan’s The Lost Thing (2000) also an animated film (2010) and his upcoming Rules of Summer (2013) acknowledge this dark play. What is cast into shadow in these texts? Is what an adult calls happiness actually ‘peak experience’ (Maslow),‘flow’ (Csikszentmihaly) or the rules, risks and terrors of childhood play? Tan’s drawings and animations point to these and Kleins’ view of object relations: the adult need to pretend wholeness by repressing the reality of things as flawed and in parts – the ‘perfect object which is in pieces’.
Does C21st capitalism prefer to offer the false security of perfect object relations: rose-tinted happy, hopeful endings over more shadowed, troubled work expressive of unease, alarm or questions about our lives? As Sean Tan admits of The Lost Thing, ‘The story ends, although no particular conclusion is put forward.’
Literature that challenges the notion of the happy ending may not have a satisfactory ending at all. As Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet (1888–1935) illustrates and Theodor Adorno argued, perhaps in our climate of anguish, the finished work is a lie.
This paper will explore uneasiness in children’s literature. Beginning with samples of Gorey’s A-Z of children’s deaths as a cheerful starting point, it will examine the uneasy tensions of his and Tan’s illustrations in works of disquiet, in opposition to glib happiness via the dark play of affect and ironic counterpoint.
Maria Pujol-Valls , “The Narrative Voice: A Key Element in Catalan Children’s Novels Set during the Spanish Civil War” (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya)
In the last two decades, a new trend in Catalan children’s fiction has emerged. Whereas historic novels set in medieval times had been a recurrent topic from the sixties as a means to disseminate the origins of Catalonia among the youngest, at the end of the nineties and beginning of the century many writers look back to the period of the Spanish Civil War. Despite the variety of plots, two elements are strikingly repeated in most of the stories: a focalised narrative voice on a boy that lives the war as a victim without understanding what is happening, and a contemporary young character that discovers the past through a relationship with an old person who experienced the war first-hand.
This paper will examine the effects of these characteristics on books for children because they can be understood as strategies to explain the past to the new generations but without directly showing its cruelties. That is to say, in order to keep some distance between the reader and the conflict and, therefore, avoid the telling of the facts by an adult that acted in the war, the events are explained from the point of view of a child or somebody that is aware of them many years later thanks to an aged friend.
12.10-1.30 Parallel panels session 2
Panel 1: Utopia ~ Jacqueline du Pré theatre
Franziska Burstyn , “Dreaming of the Land of Plenty: A Defence of Utopias in Children’s Literature” (University of Siegen)
The genre of the dystopia has been quite prevalent in recent years and even found its way both into children’s and young adult literature. While dystopias are generally considered to be worthwhile looking at, utopias have been neglected for some time now. Instead, their outdated status has been relegated to the genre of children’s fiction as something childish and trivial. One of the most prominent folklore utopias, the land of plenty, is a concept frequently depicted in medieval literature throughout Europe and featured in one of the Middle English Kildare poems, namely “The Land of Cokaygne”. This image of a paradisiac place of abundance constituted of edibles also found its way into children’s literature as a fantastical place of bliss and wonder. Most importantly, this utopian image of a place of complete happiness, not lacking any commodities, served as compensation amid a life of hardship and famine in medieval times. Accordingly, the image of a land of plenty also survived as a myth in literature, although its name has been forgotten in the Anglophone world. It is especially prominent in children’s literature due to its preoccupation with food and a general fantastical architecture made of sweets and luring edibles. Twentieth century children’s literature is filled with narrations preoccupied with the image of a land of plenty, from Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) up to more child-like and contemporary approaches as in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and Judi Barrett’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (1978). These narrations provide for the need of children to imagine a blissfull place and are especially appealing due to the fantastical image of food in abundance. Hence, this paper will examine the role and significance of utopias in children’s literature in order to defend the genre with regard to its function as a vital imagination rather than trivial entertainment.
Sandrine Cuperty , “From Utopia to Dystopia : A Redefinition of Happiness in the Harry Potter Series” (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Harry Potter is described as a peculiar boy who, unlike the others, likes going to school and dreads holidays, for he comes back to live with the Dursleys, a tyrannical family. Through Hogwarts, the word « utopia » seems to regain its etymological double meaning – at the same time « good place » and « nowhere » Situated on an island invisible to Muggles, it is an ideally joyful place, full of happiness and childlike euphoria. Yet, the bliss of the first book is gradually replaced with anxiety and danger as Voldemort regains power. The school slowly turns into a place of political conflict, before becoming a battlefield. In this dystopian context, marked by loss and despair, moments of joy remain thanks to JK Rowling’s humorous style of writing.
In this presentation, we will see how happiness in the Harry Potter books is partly defined thanks to classical literary genres such as the fairy tale and the Billdungsroman. We will also analyze how JK Rowling uses the dystopian genre to redefine happiness, warning the reader about the harshness of the outside world while offering hope in a search for inner peace and wisdom. From intense moments of pleasure relating to hedonism to Kant’s theory that only the virtuous deserve happiness, we will study how Harry Potter offers a philosophical debate that has contributed to its universal appeal.
Simone Herrmann , “‘Uninterrupted Harmony’ or Barbaric Wasteland: The Ambiguous Nature of the Island in British Robinsonades for Children” (University of Siegen)
Ever since Rousseau recommended his fictional character Émile to read no other work than Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), the category of the so-called ‘Robinsonade’ has become associated with the depiction of man’s ideal state of goodness and happiness through disengaging from society. Children and children’s literature are no exception to this, considering that children develop into adults and eventually good citizens. Hence, life on secluded islands has often been represented as utopia in children’s literature: the beauty of the setting, the protagonists’ natural ability to survive from the island’s plentiful resources and in part the romance of existing without serious and responsible adults has become the epitome of child happiness. The ‘insula amoena’, as this favourable home is called, is opposed to the ‘insula inimica’ within the Robinsonades. In them, life on the island is neither characterised by a resourceful habitat nor a lightheartedness in their communal life; dystopian traits become prevalent and life on this type of island is turned into an endangered species. The best-known examples of this binary notion surely are Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1875) and Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1945). Accordingly, the proposed paper will give an overview of how British Robinsonades for children and young adults have dealt with the issue of either life-cherishing or life-threatening islands from the eighteenth century until today.
Panel 2: Professional Panel ~ Lady Brodie room
Elena Xeni , “Trying to Keep Children Happy in the Context of Humour Translation: Exploring Translators’ Principles and Decision-Making in the Process of Children’s Literature Translation” (University of Cyprus)
This contribution presents the results of a recent study on Children’s Literature Translation Process Research (ChLTPR). Translator-participants are observed while translating extracts from humourous children’s literature (ChL), in an attempt to identify and analyseaspects of the process of translating for children so as to understand it better.
As it is not possible to ‘dive’ into the translators’ mind so as to comprehend the ‘Hows’ and ‘Whys’ of children’s literature translation (ChLT) process, by asking translators to verbalisetheir thoughts while they translate in the context of think-aloud studies, this can be achievable (Ericsson and Simon 1984; 1993; Tirkkonen-Condit, 1997; Bernardini, 1999; 2001; Jääskeläinen, 2000; Hubscher-Davidson, 2007; etc.).
Thus, in this study, a main principle in the course of translating humour for children which emerged from analysing the data collected via the think-aloud protocols (TAPs), the pre- and post- experiments questionnaire, and the researcher’s diary, was the translators’ attempt to keep children happy. Interestingly, this principle was related to others, such as appropriateness, familiarity, simplicity, etc., whereas it appeared to govern translators’ decision-making and certain strategies employed, i.e. additions, omissions, exoticism, and monitoring.
As principles tend to form the translators’ image of children and childhood, how they (principles) affect translators’ strategies and decision-making will be discussed and implications will be tackled.
Bahar Eshraq , “The Voice of Persian Translators in Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth”
O’Sullivan (2005) believes that the voice of the narrator of translation in children’s literature is more obvious than to that of the adult literature as the cultural notions of childhood build part of the implied readers.The translator of children’s literature can build the implied reader in the translated text which is different from the implied reader of the source text. She discusses different methods applied by the narrators of translation such as “amplifying narrative”, “reductive narrative” and “reduction of multiple addresses” which cause the changes in the translated texts and their readers. She believes that the “discursive presence” of the translator can be recognized on the level of narration in which the voice of the narrator of translation is different from the voice of the narrator of the source text. She (2005) also asserts that when the voice of the target text narrator is different from the voice of the source text narrator, the narrator of the translated text would drown out the narrator of the source text and will dominate the voice of the source text. The author of this paper tries to analyze two different narrators of the Persian translations of the book Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood which focuses on the death, prayer, nature and grandfathers to see the dominance of the shifts in the narrative style of Persian translations of the book named Niyayesh-e-Zamin and Doahaye Zamini e Pedarbozorg, the translational choices of the Persian translators and the perception of the readers and the norms of the target texts according to Emer O’Sullivan taxonomy of the implied reader in the translated children’s literature.
Panel 3: Death ~ Vernon Harcourt room
Clémentine Beauvais , “The Waiting Consciousness: Existentialism and Happiness in French Children’s Literature” (University of Cambridge)
This paper will explore the concept of happiness in children’s literature from the perspective of French existentialism – particularly the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and contemporary existentialist thinker Nicolas Grimaldi. As I theorise, children’s literature is traversed by the adult anguish of a dwindling temporality in which to act; the adult ‘waits’ for a time ever promised, but ever postponed, of completion with oneself; of happiness. The adult authority ‘in waiting’, to quote from Grimaldi’s theorisation of consciousness (1971), turns to the child, which I call ‘mighty’ – endowed with ‘time left’ – to realise the promise; to end the wait.
This constant delay of happiness chimes with the existentialist conception of the individual as constantly in becoming, constantly ahead-of-itself; the adult is ‘the self which will be, in the mode of not being it’, to paraphrase Sartre (1958). Through the didactic discourse of the children’s book, the implied child reader of children’s literature comes to stand for a desired future of perfect self-identity, bringing with it happiness, but also – paradoxically – complete inertia; death.
The paper will focus on Antoine de St Exupéry’s The Little Prince (1943), which Martin Heidegger reportedly called ‘one of the greatest existentialist novels of the century’ (Gagnon, 1973). The inherent opposition between the temporal imaginations of the puer aeternus and the adult characters sketches a conception of happiness dependent on an understanding – and acceptance – of the existential tension between the self that is and the self that will be; between one’s situation and one’s project.
Considering the influential and inspirational status of The Little Prince, this analysis will tentatively offer hypotheses as to the observable differences between conceptions of happiness in French and British children’s books in the late twentieth century.
Howard Cotton , “Suitable for Children? Should Picturebooks Tackle Difficult Issues or Should They Maintain Traditional Romantic Narratives?” (Plymouth University)
Picturebooks are often associated in parent’s minds with childhood and a transition between dependent and independent reading. With the advent of the television age (Postman, 1994) and digital youth (Dresang, 2008), access to information on an unprecedented scale has opened up the debate about previously forbidden subjects (Dresang, 2008) in picturebooks; and about the nature of the digital child and what is permissible, even advisable, by way of knowledge. Our present culture revels in the exponential growth of knowledge but not all knowledge will make us happy. What should a doctor tell a chronically ill patient and his relatives; and how much should parents tell their children about the adult world they will soon inhabit; we lied to you about Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny and there’s worse to come? Picturebooks are available on themes as diverse as sex education, scatological issues, death, domestic violence, cerebral palsy, child-rearing in same sex marriages, war and peace, adult depression and infanticide. They eschew the Romantic notion of childhood and many incline to a more postmodernist view of literature and life, where children are confronted by uncertainty and open-endedness.
Kitty Crowther, a Belgian author, produces literature for children and young adults and won the Astrid Lingren Memorial Award in 2010. ‘La Visite de Petite Mort’ (2005 and only available in French) is a picturebook for children wherethe protagonist, Elsewise, is a young girl. Death, a female black-cowled figure complete with scythe, is used to people’s tears when they meet her and is taken aback when Elsewise smiles and appears genuinely happy to go with her. Using ‘La Visite de Petite Mort’ I wish to examine the concept of ‘suitability ’of the content of picturebooks. I wish to consider what criteria gatekeepers (parents, teachers, librarians, publishers), in their role as moral authorities, use to make judgements about literature suitable for children: the themes and the way they are offered.
I am particularly interested in the role of picturebooks in mediating sensitive and controversial topics and whether such books can have happy endings. I will refer to the notion of the ‘moral imperative’ (Marriott, 1998) – where ‘consciously or unconsciously, overtly or covertly, picturebooks provide through the combination of images and words, themes and ideas, texts and subtexts, a representation not only of how the world is but also of how it ought to be.’ (ibid:5). ‘La Visite de Petite Mort’ by Kitty Crowther and ‘Duck, Death and the Tulip’ by Wolf Erlrbruch (winner of the Hans Christian Andersen award in 2006) are books that present the subject of death to children through text and image in a gentle and open-ended manner. But this begs the question whether this is suitable content for children and, if so, is theirs a version of death we can condone by placing these books on our children’s bookshelves?
Nader Amiri, Rebwar Nazari, Mohammad Nazari , “Picture of the Dead World in Children’s Fiction in Iran in 2000s: The Concept of ‘Death’ in Children’s Literature” (Razi University, Allameh Tabatabai University)
“Where are the dead?”, one of the perennial questions of children and of course the long-standing question of Iranian children in Iranian “life-world” which is full of myth! Clinical research suggests deep worry of children about death. Mind of child is very much occupied with death and Children literature is perhaps the best way to help them. This study charts the “dead space” in children’s fiction deals with Iran during 2000’s. Theoritical background, in this study, is inspired by sociological theories of Elias, Existential Psychonalysis, and Eliade’s mythological approaches. Concept of chronotope, presented by Bakhtin, some of the phenomenological concepts and methods narratology completing dimensions of research provide for analysis of time-space aspects.
22 stories were selected out of 47 works with theme of death and the following results were obtained: (a) although the death is “inevitable” and “irreversible” it is not equivalent to not being. (b) “the dead world” is a place between surface (the earth) and the sun, in other words there isn’t borderline between the dead and the living world (c) ontological transformation is in the dead which has changed the way of his/her access and presence: the dead hear the voice of the child and perhaps they will answer. (d) most works depict death as the end of life and effect of aging, fewer as effect of disease, war and accident (e) rejecting Iranian myths and global mythic thems can be found here and apparently such created space and time are rather similar to primitive religions than to Semitic religions world.
3.50-5.10 Parallel panels session 3
Panel 1: Child Readers ~ Jacqueline du Pré theatre
Helen Tyson , “Infans Polypervers? Reading the Child Reader in Modernist Literature and Psychoanalysis” (Queen Mary, University of London)
On 19th March 1930 the British Psycho-Analytical Society met to discuss the unconscious life of reading. First to speak was James Strachey: crucial for Strachey was the idea that an inner child – the child that began by reading aloud, stumbling over the words on the page – stays with us and has a profound effect on the psychic colouring of reading for the rest of our lives. For Strachey, reading makes children of us not only by recalling the stumbling blocks of those early lessons in reading, but also by calling up unconscious childhood phantasies. Locating the roots of readerly desire in infantile oral phantasies described by the child analyst Melanie Klein, Strachey describes the way that highbrow literary culture tends to push us back into ambivalent (destructive, cannibalistic, and paranoid) infantile oral phantasies. By the end of his paper, the reader who scribbles in, dog-ears, and mutilates his books, has become the paranoid, destructive Kleinian infant: the modernist reader is, quite literally, infantilised.
Traditionally, of course, the child reader identifies with his or her fictional heroes in order to obtain a wish-fulfilment that bolsters the ego and satisfies desires thwarted in the real world. In Freud’s essay ‘On Dreams’ he describes an eight-year-old boy who, having been ‘deep in a book about the Greek heroes’, dreamt ‘that he was driving in a chariot with Achilles and that Diomede was the charioteer’. ‘It was easy to see,’ concludes Freud, ‘that he had taken the heroes as his models and was sorry not to be living in their days.’ For many modernist-linked psychoanalysts, however, the figure of the child reader was a route to thinking about the darker fantasy life of reading.
This paper will explore the portrait of the child reader in a series of vignettes from modernist and psychoanalytic literature by Freud, Klein, Proust, and Woolf. It will focus on how these writers conceptualise the darker unconscious life of reading through the figure of the child. Psychoanalytic and modernist representations of the child reader, I want to suggest, introduce the negative, ambivalent, and anxiety-ridden aspects of readerly identification, troubling a traditionally redemptive account of infantile wish-fulfilment.
Janelle Mathis , “Happiness through Agency as Nurtured in Children’s Literature” (University of North Texas)
In a recent and ongoing study of the role of children’s literature in demonstrating, supporting, and igniting a sense of personal, cultural, and social agency, findings point to the complexity of factors in literature that contribute to this form of empowerment. Using a sociocultural frame, the notion of agency here is “… the strategic making and remaking of selves, identities, relationships, activities, cultural tools and resources and history as embedded within relations of power” (Lewis, Enciso, & Moje, 2007).
As preschool children begin interpretive reproduction (James, Jenks, & Prout, 1998), negotiating their sense of self with the ideologies surrounding them, authors and illustrators of children’s literature bring to life characters and contexts that both provide demonstrations of agency andoffer invitations to young literacy learners to enter these stories through imaginative play. Such stories, coming from sociocultural ideologies, have the potential to provide happiness in young children as they negotiate relationships of empowerment with characters and with other actual people sharing the literacy event. This paper discusses three potential ways that literature nurtures agency and, thus, is a demonstrated source of happiness for preschool literacy learners: (1) Happiness in discovering the familiar in stories; (2) Happiness in entering the story and /or becoming a character and extending the story; and (3) Happiness in the actual engagement of reading—through telling a story using the images or inquiring about concepts, events, and vocabulary with a more experienced reader.
To help frame the discussion, this paper shares the responses of one child to three picture books from various genre that are focused on themes/topics of interest to him. The data was collected using ethnographic techniques. Both his interactive dialogue and interpretive play provide pivotal points that invite a sociocultural theoretical perspective and discussion on happiness through engagement, enactment, and agency in literary experiences.
Maija-Liisa Harju , “‘The Promise of Unhappiness’: Addressing Fear, Anxiety, Death and Grief in Children’s Literature” (McGill University)
Connecting through stories can do much to help young people and adults counter the feelings of fear and anxiety that shadow childhood. In a 2007 article, I suggested that ‘crossover’ books—or stories that readers of all ages have adopted as their own (Beckett, 2009; Falconer, 2009; Harju, 2010) hold the great potential for encouraging meaningful conversation between children and adults about difficult themes.
In this paper, I discuss how a small, intergenerational reading group made meaning of death and grief experiences by sharing their responses to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (2002) and The Graveyard Book (2008). I highlight the book talk that took place between myself, a mother, and her eleven year-old daughter examining our “lived through experiences” of story engagement (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995). I demonstrate the kind of ‘grand conversation’ (Peterson & Eeds, 1990), or, open, honest and reciprocal talk that was prompted by our responses to death, fear and anxiety in these and other crossover books. Additionally, I reflect on the ways we worked through such difficult subjects by sharing these stories and telling some of our own (Eeds & Wells, 1989; Sumara, 2002).
This discussion of ‘the promise of unhappiness’ in childhood speaks to the greater significance of story sharing by illustrating the importance of talking through experiences with death, grief, mortality and other troubling truths with children. Sell (2002) proposes that we seek out stories because, above all, “literature gives its readers the experience—not just an illusion—of being not alone in the world” (p. 12). Knowing that there was company in the dark certainly helped our reading group face the things that continue to test and terrify us.
Panel 2: Sexuality and Gender ~ Lady Brodie room
Dora Batalim Sottomayor , “Happiness, when Homosexuality is the Theme in Books for Children” (Catholic University of Lisboa / Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
My paper will reflect upon the theme of homosexuality in children’s picture books considering the point of view of the child as the implied receiver of the book’s message.
Mainly from two concrete examples contemporaries (one Portuguese and one Spanish book, translated and published in Portugal) which are based on different assumptions to build their arguments to evidence this topic, we discuss the importance of considering the inevitable projection of readers in the successful reception of a/any children’s book so that a topic as specific as this one canactually become transversal and does not appear awkward or restricted.
We will oppose a perspective centered on the child who is part of a non-normative family to another, more common, which is focused on experience of passion for someone of the same gender to highlight how unconventional modes of happiness can successfully be conveyed, which means the experience of contentment is the one that lingers, independently of the frame.
From it we could establish a series of relationships within the “happiness and family paradigm” in other books portraying non-normative families and others.
Nozomi Uematsu, “Monstrous Happiness: Jeanette Winterson’s Apocalyptic Adolescence” (University of Sussex)
Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), mixes autobiography and fantasy. In this work, Winterson’s life is described as full of crisis, particularly in her relationship with her mother. When her religious mother finds her daughter Jeanette having sex with a girl, she gets the church to perform an exorcism on her, and she casts her out of the church. In 2011, Winterson published a non-fiction autobiography titled Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. Winterson looks back over her life from her childhood from the 1960s to the 2010s. This autobiography has numerous similarities with her Oranges: in particular, problematic bonds between mother and child, and the problematic relationship between same sex intimacy and the church.
In chapter eight of the autobiography, titled ‘Apocalypse’, Jeanette and her mother have a critical disagreement over Jeanette’s sexuality and her happiness. Mrs Winterson found that Jeanette is in love with another girl, Janey, in the church. Jeanette tells her mother that ‘[w]hen I am with her I am happy. Just happy.’ After a pause, her mother replies: ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’ In The Promise of Happiness, Sara Ahmed discusses precisely this common feeling of parental disappointment in the queer child. More than this, however, Winterson’s strong Christian community scapegoats her as devilish and, when she refuses to repent, casts her out of the community. Winterson writes not only of the process of scapegoating the queer child, but also reverses conventional perspectives by speaking from the position of the scapegoat. These two texts, in giving the scapegoat a voice, show their adolescent heroine breaking away from collective values, and pursuing her own happiness.
Allyson Jule , “Princesses in the Classroom” (Trinity Western University)
For well over fifty years, girls as princesses has been a staple of childhood play. There is great appeal to fantasy play and children play out of what they see. This paper explores the power of the princess metaphor on the emotional development and future ambitions,attitudes of and expectations for girls (Twenge & Campbell, 2009). In 2000, The Disney Corporation released its “Princesses” line of merchandise – eight princesses marketed together as a group for the purpose of creating a single brand which can be more easily mass-produced. As such, the princess industry has grown significantly (Orr, 2009; Orenstein, 2006). The messages of simplistic and traditional, hyper-gendered performances are powerful and ubiquitous, even in primary classrooms. As a result, primary school teachers in particular could use alternative and varied metaphors for gender roles when choosing books, stories, and learning activities for their classrooms and create space for critical discussions regarding young children’s perceptions of gender roles. This is a particular concern for teacher education. Because children appropriate cultural material to participate in and explore their world, mindful engagement with teachers regarding representations of gender seems necessary.
Panel 3: Suffering ~ Vernon Harcourt room
Rebecca Ann Long , “Children in War: The Pursuit of Happiness in Three Children’s Books” (Trinity College Dublin)
When we discuss the idea of happiness in children’s literature we must also, at some point, discuss the complex nature of the power dynamics child figures are often subject to. We must discuss how the child protagonist – and to a certain extent, the child reader – functions as an ideological subject because, on a fundamental level, children are not in control of their own happiness or even the means to achieve it. This paper will explore the idea of happiness in the context of war in three central children’s literature texts; Ian Serrailler’s The Silver Sword, Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Ann Holm’s I Am David.
In relation to the family unit and how it normally functions, happiness is often linked to the figures of the parents; to their constant, stable and loving presence in the life of the child and the space of the home. But what happens when parents leave? In the absence of an authoritative figure that facilitates their happiness and wellbeing, how do child protagonists make themselves happy? This paper will examine how children pursue their own happiness, how they exist in the interim between the desolation of the domestic space and the restoration of the family.
Arguably, the pursuit of happiness is linked to the development of the self and the formation of identity; children grow into happiness, into deep, emotional happiness as they grow into themselves, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In leaving the compromised homespace, children embark on an adventure; happiness becomes the goal of a journey as occurs in the three texts mentioned above. This paper will explore those journeys into happiness and in doing so will interrogate the complex power dynamics which influence children’s literature and the emotional maturation of child protagonists.
Helen Fiona Day , “Happiness, Lies and Fantasy in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction” (University of Central Lancashire)
This paper explores the desire of young adult protagonists in contemporary fiction to seek happiness or, perhaps more importantly, to avoid unhappiness, through lying and fantasy. Three novels with unreliable first person narrators will be examined, each of whom uses different techniques to overcome cognitive dissonance.
In Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable (2006), Keir narrates his pretty perfect life; a life where he is happy, trustworthy and an all-round good guy. Through picking up the cues of his unreliability, the reader comes to understand that Keir has raped a girl, something so inexcusable that it cannot be admitted. In B. J. Anderson’s Ultraviolet (2011) Alison wakes in a psychiatric hospital believing she may have killed Tori, the most popular girl in her school. The story Alison tells us, in her attempt to find a happier version of events, takes the reader into paranormal fantasyand alien abduction. Either this is true genre-switching (from realist to fantasy) or Alison, lied to and manipulated by an older man, has had a psychotic breakdown. Rebecca, the teenager narrator in Rachel Klein’s The Moth Diaries (2004) becomes obsessed with her roommate Lucy at an exclusive girls’ boarding school. When her happiness at their close friendship is threatened by a new girl, Rebecca convinces herself that Ernessa is a vampire, literally sucking the life out of Lucy. Rebecca, and the reader, become trapped in a web of lies, sexuality, self-harm and anorexia, desperately trying to distinguish between fantasy, metaphor and reality.
The paper also explores the possible happiness of the reader; whilst some may feel pleasure at decoding the unreliability and lies in the text, being drawn into the world-view of rapists, murderers and the psychiatrically disturbed is both chilling and challenging. In young adult unreliable narration happiness and resolution seems to be in direct contrast to unhappiness and ambiguity.
Jen Baker , “Vengeance is Sweet: Subverting the Revenge Narrative in the Works of Roald Dahl” (University of Bristol)
‘And all of a sudden, he had a tremendous urge to do something about her. Something whooping. Something absolutely terrific. A real shocker.’
~ George’s Marvellous Medicine
Vengeance in Roald Dahl’s literature for children is never enacted, or so the story tells us, without just cause; Miss Trunchbull bullies those she considers weak and so Matilda is permitted to show her headmistress what it is like to be frightened and helpless; the Gregg’s mercilessly hunt birds and laugh at the girl with the Magic Finger, and so are transformed into birds and hunted by the very animals they tried to kill; the twits, Aunt’s Sponge and Spiker, the witches, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, the golden ticket winners and Victor Hazell all meet their downfall at the hands of the tormented. Proverbs pertaining to revenge warn us that pursuing revenge will only lead to suffering for all involved, ‘Before you set out for revenge, be sure to dig two graves’ as the Chinese proverb goes. Yet, within the realms of children’s literature, and most predominantly in the works of Roald Dahl, there is room for the child to work through the injustices it faces in its subordinate position in the form of vengeance.
Many opponents of Dahl’s children’s stories claim that his texts show a disregard for authority that is damaging to the child, even now despite his works consistently appearing in the top ten best-loved children’s books of all time and nearly fifty years since the publication of one of his most controversial texts, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This paper intends to dissect the formulation and outcome of childhood revenge within Dahl’s stories for children as a means to obtaining happiness. They will be considered alongside a history of revenge in literature that predominantly ends in misery for the vengeful, and – arguing that Dahl’s works are subverted fairy tales – considers them in relation to the legacy and message of Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment.