The pedagogical and aesthetic aspects of children’s and young adults’ literature have often been pitted against each other. Yet, if we think of children’s literature as a participatory and mediated practice, the aesthetical and the pedagogical dimensions are no longer opposed to each other. In the last two decades, we have witnessed an ‘educational turn’ in contemporary arts practices, where the emphasis is no longer on the finished aesthetic object, but on the processes and relationships established with the audiences and communities which become part of the art project, a process also facilitated by digital fora. Speaking of children’s literature as a mediated practice questions art’s autonomy and the limits of ‘non-art’; it brings the ‘death of the author’ not only to praise the ‘birth of the reader’ but also to foreground and question the conventions that sustain the artistic.
Since we cannot take children’s cognitive and literacy skills for granted, books tend to be recommended according to specific age ranges, while teachers and other adult figures involved (such as librarians, parents, and other caretakers, the so-called ‘gate-keepers’) try to facilitate an interpretation of the author’s intention. But what if we take the death of the author seriously? Will we still talk about the importance of understanding the text? What if we make children mediators and authors of children’s literature? Who is the ideal child that writes and reads? How is age produced and sustained in these relationships?
Thinking about possible synergies between the pedagogical and the aesthetic in children’s literature brings back questions on reception and (affective) engagement. It also provides us with insights into the entanglements of the publishing industry, the readers/viewers/consumers/users, the authors/artists, the practices of reading/sharing/discussing/reversioning and the new technologies, and at the same time, prompting reflections on our own (biased) academic work in this field.
Delegates will be invited to reflect on the implications of considering children not as ‘adults in the making’, but rather as readers and makers in their own right.
In this conference, we aim to strengthen the ties between children’s literature scholars, literacy and media experts and arts scholars to explore the possibilities of combining and rethinking the hermeneutical methods of the humanities, the experimental and empirical approaches of social sciences and arts-based research, as well as the contemporary anthropological and educational research that questions the essentialized positions of the adult and the child in educational contexts.
In this vein we suggest the following topics, but we also invite other paper and panel topics inspired by the congress’ theme: