Topics covered in the 2020 summer school

Each session will involve a recorded talk or presentation, which you will have access to from the start of the week, allowing you to move through the material at your own pace. You will also be provided with key extracts from texts and a resource list, so you can delve as deeply as you wish into each topic.

Each session will be accompanied by a discussion forum – where you can share your ideas and views with other summer school participants and teaching staff.

There will also be a number of optional live virtual seminars with teaching staff. A schedule for these live sessions will be released soon.


(Re)Imagining Alice through Visual Representation

Dr Jade Dillon

This session will examine the visual (re)imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In many ways, the images allow Alice to outgrow the text and give us an Alice that is far more developed than the singular character who appears in the written form. Hence, the ‘Alice’ figure maintains a polymorphic identity throughout her illustrative career. We will discuss how the iconotextual narrative, and the use of art itself, can redefine and reshape notions of Alice.


Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and American Girlhood

Dr Dara Downey

This talk employs Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women as a means of examining the evolution of notions of girlhood in American literature and popular culture over the past 150 years. By situating the novel within its nineteenth-century context, as well as exploring how this context is re-imagined in the recent film adaptation, this session invites participants to interrogate the continued popularity of Alcott’s novel, and the ways in which it continues to speak to ideas about femininity in contemporary culture on both sides of the Atlantic.


Us is near bein’ wild things ourselves: Exploring Nature in Children’s Literature

Dr Jane Carroll

This talk traces the ways that 20th and 21st century children’s books engage with ideas of nature, wildness and wilderness. While nature and outdoor play is often shown in a positive light in books like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, other texts show wilderness as dangerous and threatening. Participants will be invited to explore the tensions between the positive and negative depictions of nature in children’s books and explore the recent rise of nature-writing, eco-pedagogy, and environmental narratives for young readers.


Ursula Le Guin: Fantasy, Authority, and Difference

Dr Dara Downey

This talk focuses on Ursula Le Guin’s novel A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). In particular, it examines the book’s attitudes towards authority, gender difference, and race, within the context of the fantastical “school story.” In the process, the session encourages participants to think about how the fantasy genre has developed since the middle of the twentieth century, including its attitude towards racial difference, and to consider how the “wizard-school” setting allows for explorations of developing individuality against the backdrop of rigidly enforced norms.


“A private and secret country”: Ireland and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia

Dr Jane Carroll

This talk investigates the role Ireland and Irish literature had to play in shaping Lewis’s most famous works of fiction, The Chronicles of Narnia. While Lewis’s impact on modern children’s literature is widely acknowledged, his status as an Irish writer is often overlooked. We will examine some of the Irish folktales and fairy tales that influenced Lewis’s writing (with a special focus on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and query what a new recognition of Lewis’s Irishness might bring to our reading of his work.


Illustration in the Pollard Collection of Children’s Books

Dr Jane Carroll

This session showcases illustration and images in the Pollard Collection of Children’s Books, the largest collection of children’s books in Ireland. This talk will highlight some of the more unusual items in the collection, including early pop-up books and movables, and books illustrated by Irish women, and discuss the trends and developments in children’s book illustration made visible in this unique collection.


Forgetting to Remember; Memory in Irish Children’s Literature

Dr Becky Long

The interconnected acts of remembering and forgetting are hugely affective in the formation of identity in Irish children’s literature, as it develops from the revolutionary moment of the Cultural Revival to the present day. This workshop will explore the intricacies of memory and the nuances of childhood identity in texts such as Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan, Orla Melling’s The Singing Stone, and Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman.