Topics covered in the 2022 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 posted in advance.

Short abstracts for each of the lectures and live sessions may be found below.

“‘Home from the Hill’: Journeys towards Happiness in Children’s Literature” | Dr Becky Long

Transgression and compliance are two sides of the same coin and are intimately linked in the experience of childhood – children come to understand the world they inhabit by the transgressions they commit in it. The wild or unruly child is feared precisely because their transgressive actions can expose the vulnerability of adult power and control. In Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming (1981), the movement of the Tillermans across the vastness of the American continent becomes a quest for a mythical homestead; the Tillerman children remove themselves from society in order to reconcile themselves with it and ultimately, in order to be found.

Children are not often afforded control of their own happiness. This is especially true in the context of war and conflict, and any discussion of happiness in children’s literature must necessarily touch on the complex nature of the power dynamics child figures are often subject to. In Anne Holm’s 1963 text, I Am David, the central protagonist must learn how to be a child, even as he attempts to return to a home he has never known.

Homecoming and I Am David will be used as access points into a discussion about the centrality of home, family, and agency in children’s literature.

“Affect Theory & Emotional Development in Children’s Picturebooks” | Dr Jade Dillon

Using a selection of contemporary picturebooks by (1) Shuan Tan and (2) Oliver Jeffers, this lecture will explore the presence of affective space and emotional ekphrasis in their storyworlds. Furthermore, I will draw on the existence of non-place as an affective and reflective space which allows the protagonist – and by extension, the reader – to experience emotion without external stimulus.

Maria Nikolajeva (2014) notes that ‘fictional narratives, including picturebooks, are about interpersonal communication, both within and outside the text. Multimedial ekphrasis enables communication where simple verbal description is insufficient. If, as cognitive criticism claims, we read fiction because we want to learn more about ourselves and about other people, picturebooks are an excellent first step toward emotional intelligence’ (726). Meanwhile, Kerry Mallan argues that ‘picture books, by the very nature of their format, rely less on direct description of emotions and more on the visualisation of affect to capture moments of emotional intensity or to evoke emotional atmosphere’ (129). Thus, the use of picturebooks as a tool for building emotional literacy and development in childhood is pivotal. The Red Tree (Tan, 2001) and The Heart and the Bottle (Jeffers, 2010) are evocative texts that centre on difficult and negative emotions. Drawing on the work of Nikolajeva and Mallan, I will perform a close reading of the affective spaces created by Tan and Jeffers respectively. I will argue that the spaces within the picturebooks have didactic capabilities as affective stimulators for the young reader.

“‘A Hailstorm of Knitting Needles’: Spirits and Spiritualism in Victorian Children’s Books” | Dr Jane Carroll

In the fantasy literature of the late 19th century, ordinary domestic items are often infused with magical powers. Magical objects, and objects that are animated by supernatural powers offer a tangible connection between the real world and the fantastic world and, in texts like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There (1871), it is the odd behaviour of apparently mundane objects that gives the first indication that the protagonist has crossed over into another world. This session discusses the role of mundane objects in fantasy world-building and reads texts like Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses (1874), and Mrs Molesworth’s The Cuckoo Clock (1877) alongside historical sources attesting to a growing interest in magic and the supernatural in late 19th century Britain, particularly the phenomenon of “table-turning” which saw ordinary parlours and sitting rooms transformed into supernatural spaces. We’ll talk about the overlaps between children’s literature and spiritualism and the ways that Victorian fantasy is rooted in the home.  “Affective Space and Emotional Development in Contemporary Children’s Picturebooks”

“Queerness and Memory in YA Graphic Novels” | Dearbhaile Houston 

In this talk we will consider the themes of queer identity and memory in three graphic novels concerned with young adult experience: Fun Home (2006) by Alison Bechdel, and Skim (2008) and This One Summer (2014) by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. All three texts look back to memories of adolescence, employing memory as a mode for exploring queer identity. We will pay particular attention to the specific sites in which memory is centred in these graphic novels: the home in Fun Home, the school and suburb in Skim, and the beach town in This One Summer. Likewise, we will explore how queerness is connected in these texts to the family unit, as well to a wider community—a network of extended family members, friends, peers, and educators. Throughout this talk we will consider these themes in conversation with the formal aspects of the graphic novel. We will focus on the distinct visual styles of the three texts and explore the way in which the representation of memory is utilised to explore the formation of queer identity in the YA graphic novel. We will see how the nuances of memory formation and recollection is played out on the page: How the interplay between text and image mirrors and at times enacts the process of memory formation through the reader’s own meaning-making process.

 “The Girl in the Book: Paratexts, Prefaces and Print Culture” | Margaret Masterson

Trinity’s Pollard Collection is the largest collection of historical children’s literature in Ireland, where works by Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) are prominent. Named for its donor, Mary Pollard, the collection holds a large quantity of girl stories. Peter Hollindale (1997) argues that childhood (or in this case, girlhood) is as much a literary construction as it is a social construction, suggesting that “patterns of childness” are embodied in children’s books. If girlhood is a cultural construction, dynamic, temporal and negotiated, then it isn’t only through textual analysis that we can examine girlhood, but through print culture as well. Historical bibliographer Donald McKenzie first insisted book history should “include linguistic interpretation and historical explanation, creating a sociology of texts” (1986). In this talk, we examine the shifting construction of girlhood through the materiality of books and book production. We’ll look at how Edgeworth’s stories for girls change over time, how booksellers’ printing choices determine an intended purchaser and reader. We’ll consider how form affects meaning. Specifically, I’ll talk about paratexts in Edgeworth’s books, showing how prefaces, illustrations, contents, even titles influence meaning and reveal cultural clues that define girlhood in the special collection (Genette, 1997).

“Folk Magic in Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching Books” | Dr Dara Downey

The Shepherd’s Crown is Terry Pratchett’s very final published novel, and was close to completion when he passed away in March 2015. The novel is the final book in the series of five children’s and young-adult books based on the character of Tiffany Aching, a young witch navigating work, life, and selfhood in the Discworld, a sprawling imaginative space where most of Pratchett’s best-known works of humorous fantasy fiction are set. In this session, we will examine a number of the issues raised by The Tiffany Aching books, concentrating in particular on the first, The Wee Free Men (2003), which introduces the character of Tiffany at 9 years of age, as she is discovering her powers and figuring out the implications of her emerging calling as a witch, a role that comes with particular danger and responsibilities. In particular, we will explore the issue of folklore, storytelling, and tradition in the books. On the one hand, these are the forces against which Tiffany must often struggle. At the same time, however, she also makes use of the place of folklore in the landscape of her home on “the Chalk” in her efforts to keep safe her family, her fellow witches, and her local community, who distrust but also desperately need the services that she provides, whether practical or supernatural.