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Maria Nikolajeva


  • Emerita Professor of Education
  • Retired
  • Professorial Fellow of Homerton College
  • Fellow of the English Association

E-mail Address


  • MA (Moscow Linguistic University, English)
  • PhD (Stockholm University, Comparative Literature)

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • International Research Society for Children's Literature (President 1993-97) (Honorary Fellow 2019 -)
  • Children's Literature Association (international committee 1998-2001 and 2002-2004), publications advisory board (2015-present)


  • International Brothers Grimm Award for lifetime achievement in children's literature research 2005
  • Honorary Professor, University of Worcester 2007
  • Distinguished Scholar Award, International Association for the Fantastic in Arts 2009

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Please note: Maria Nikolajeva has now retired and unable to take on any academic tasks.

Before coming to the University of Cambridge in 2008 to become Professor and Chair, Maria Nikolajeva taught children's literature and literary theory at Stockholm university, Sweden, for twenty five years. She has also been a guest professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA, Åbo Akademi University, Finland, and San Diego State University, USA. She is an Honorary Professor at the University of Worcester. She has lectured extensively on the five continents and given papers at over sixty conferences, including many keynote addresses. Her academic honours include a Fulbright Grant and a research fellowship at the International Youth Library, Munich. She is the author and editor of many books and contributor to numerous professional journals and essay collections.

She has led several major research projects and was the coordinator of a five-year Nordic postgraduate training program funded by the Nordic Academy for Advanced Studies.

She is a member of several editorial boards of international professional journals and was one of the senior editors for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. In 2002-2008 she served on the jury of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the next-largest international award in literature after the Nobel Prize.

In 2005 she received the International Brothers Grimm Award for a lifetime achievement in children's literature research.

In Cambridge, Maria joined a vibrant community of children's literature scholars and students to which she contributes with her experience and enthusiasm. In 2010 she became the Director of the Cambridge-Homerton Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature which has gained substantial international reputation. In 2010, she organised, in collaboration with Mary Hilton, the well-attended international conference “The Emergent Adult: Adolescent Literature and Culture”; in 2015 she co-organised, with Zoe Jaques, "Alice Through the Ages". In 2018, she hosted the international conference "Synergy and Contradiction: How Picturebooks and Picture Books Work".

For further information please visit Maria's page on

Academic Area/Links

  • Literary theory, Nordic literature, comparative literature, semiotics and narratology, cognitive poetics

Research Topics

  • Critical theory, cognitive literary studies, visual literacy, digital literature for children, international and comparative children's literature, translation studies, folktales and fairy tales

Previous PhD students in the Faculty of Education:

Ghada Al-Yaqout (2012) Inside, Outside and App-side down: picturebook series. Clementine Beauvais (2013) The Mighty Child: politically transformative children's literature. Susan Tan (2014) dystopias in young adult fiction. Ashley Wilson (2014) Orphan girls in North American children's literature. Faye Dorcas Young (2015) Images of East Asians in English-language children's literature. Xiaofei Shi (2016) Crossover picturebooks. Dawn Sardella-Ayres: Race and gender in The Little Colonel series (2016). Richard Shakeshaft: Representation of technology in young adult fiction (2018). Katy Day: Cognitive-affective study of Tamora Pierce feminist fantasy (2018) Siddharth Pandey: Material objects in fantasy fiction (2019), Sarah Hardstaff: Hidden economies in children's fiction (2019), Anna Savoie: Cognitive approaches to multicultural young adult fiction (2019).

Principal and Recent Publications

Maria Nikolajeva is the author of 15 academic books, editor of a number of volumes and has published over 200 articles in international professional journals and essay collections.

Books (a selection)

Beauvais, C. and Nikolajeva, M, Eds. (2017). The Edinburgh Companion to Children's Literature. Edinburgh University Press

Nikolajeva, M. (2014). Reading for Learning. Cognitive Approaches to Children's Literature. John Benjamins

Hilton, M. and Nikolajeva, M., Eds. (2012) Contemporary adolescent literature and culture: The emergent adult. Ashgate.

Nikolajeva, M. (2010) Power, voice and subjectivity in literature for young readers. Routledge.

Beckett, S. and Nikolajeva, M., Eds. (2006) Beyond Babar: The European tradition in children's literature. Scarecrow.

Nikolajeva, M. (2005) The aesthetic approaches to children's literature. Scarecrow. Korean translation 2011.

Nikolajeva, M. (2002) The rhetoric of character in children's literature. Scarecrow. Paperback reprint 2003. Korean translation 2010.

Nikolajeva, M. and Scott, C. (2001) How picturebooks work. Garland. Paperback edition 2006. Chinese translation 2007. Korean translation 2010. Portuguese (Brazil) translation 2011. Japanese translation 2011.

Nikolajeva, M. (2000) From mythic to linear. Time in children's literature. Scarecrow. Paperback reprint 2003.

Nikolajeva, M. (1996) Children's literature comes of age. Toward a new aesthetic. Garland. Korean translation 1998.

Recent peer-reviewed articles

Nikolajeva, M. (2016). Recent trends on children's literature research: return to the body. International research in children's literature, vol 9 no 2

Nikolajeva, M. (2016) Navigating fiction: cognitive-affective engagement with place in children's literature. BREAC: A digital journal of Irish studies

Al-Yaqout, G. and Nikolajeva, M. (2015) Re-conceptualising picturebook theory in the digital age. Nordic journal for childlit aesthetics

Nikolajeva, M. (2014) Memory of the present: empathy and identity in young adult fiction. Narrative works 4 (2)

Nikolajeva, M. (2014) "The Penguin Looked Sad". Picturebooks, Empathy and Theory of Mind, in Picturebooks: representation and narration, edited by Bettina-Kummerling Meibauer. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2013) "Did you feel as if you hated people?" Emotional literacy through fiction. New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship 19(2)

Nikolajeva, M. (2012) Reading other people's minds through words and pictures. Children's literature in education.

Nikolajeva, M. (2012) Children's literature, in The Routledge History of Childhood in the Western World, ed. Paula Fass. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2012) Beyond happily ever after: The aesthetic dilemma of sequels, in Textual transformations, ed. Benjamin Levfebre. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2012) Guilt, empathy and the ethical potential of children's literature. Barnboken - Journal of Children's Literature Research no 1.

Nikolajeva, M. (2012) The development of children’s fantasy, in Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, ed. Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn. Cambridge University Press.

Nikolajeva, M. (2011) ”I spy Rumpelstilstkin”: Playing games with the reader in The Witch's Boy. Marvels & Tales vol 32 no 2.

Nikolajeva, M. & Taylor, L. (2011) “Must we to bed indeed?” Beds as cultural signifiers in picturebooks for children. New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship vol 17 no 2.

Nikolajeva, M. (2011) Adult heroism and role models in the Harry Potter novels, in: Heroism in the Harry Potter Series, ed. Katrin Berndt & Lena Steveker. Ashgate.

Wyse D., Nikolajeva M., Charlton E., Cliff Hodges G., Pointon P., Taylor L. (2011) Place-related identity, texts, and transcultural meanings. British Educational Research Journal.

Charlton E., Wyse D., Cliff Hodges G., Nikolajeva M., Pointon P., Taylor L. (2011) Place-related identities through texts: From interdisciplinary theory to research agenda. British Journal of Educational Studies vol 59 no 1.

Nikolajeva, M. (2011) The identification fallacy; perspective and subjectivity in children's literature, in Telling children's stories: Narrative theory and children's literature, ed. Mike Cadden. University of Nebraska Press.

Nikolajeva, M. (2011) Visualising people; multimodal character contruction in Astrid Lindgren's works, in Beyond Pippi Longstocking: Intermedial and international approaches to Astrid Lindgren's work, ed. Bettina Kummerling-Meibauer & Astrid Surmatz. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2010) Interpretative codes and implied readers of children's picturebooks, in New directions in picturebook research, ed. Teresa Colomer et al. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2010) Translation and crosscultural reception, in Handbook of research on children’s and young adult literature, ed. Karen Coats et al. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2010) Literacy, competence and meaning-making: a human sciences approach. Cambridge Journal of Education vol 40 no 2.

Cliff Hodges, G., Nikolajeva, M. and Taylor, L. (2010) Three walks through fictional Fens.  Children's literature in education vol 40 no 3.

Nikolajeva, M. (2009) Devils, demons, familiars, friends: Towards a semiotics of literary cats. Marvels & Tales vol 23 no 2.

Nikolajeva, M. (2009) Time and totalitarianism. International Journal of the Fantastic in Art  vol 20 no 2.

Nikolajeva, M. (2009) Theory, post-theory, and aetonormative theory. Neohelicon: Acta Comparationis Litterarum Universalum no 1.

Nikolajeva, M. (2008) Comparative children’s literature: What is there to compare? Papers; Explorations into children's literature no 1.

Nikolajeva, M. (2008) Harry Potter and the secrets of children's literature in: Harry Potter's world: Multidisciplinary critical perspectives ed. Elizabeth Heilman. Routledge.

Nikolajeva, M. (2008) Play and playfulness in postmodern picturebooks, in: Postmodern picturebooks: Play, parody, and self-referentiality, ed Lawrence Sipe. Routledge.

Maria Nikolajeva

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