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Events and Open Seminars

alice in wonderland scenario

The CRCLC hosts various events and open seminars each year reflecting the interests of researchers here as well as trends and movements in the larger field, at which the Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge stands at the forefront. Annual events include the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture and the Jacqueline Wilson Award ceremony. 

For a list of previous events hosted by the CRCLC, please see our Past Events page, and the archives section at

Upcoming in 2019:

Fantasy and the Anthropocene; Thursday 24 Jan., 5-6pm, Mary Allen Building room 104, Homerton College

The concept of the Anthropocene says that humans are primarily responsible for the current state of the world, and only we (if anyone) can fix it. In this talk, Brian Attebery will explore traditional narrative patterns and their repurposing by fantasy writers from J. R. R. Tolkien to N. K. Jemisin. Such patterns take on new purpose and significance in the context of species die-offs, climate change, and other human-caused alterations of the environment. Examples range from the killing of the forest guardian in the epic of Gilgamesh to John Crowley’s recent novel Ka.

Brian Attebery is the author of Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth and Decoding Gender in Science Fiction, among other genre studies. His work has been honored with a Pilgrim Award, two Mythopoeic Awards, and the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. He is a Professor of English at Idaho State University and editor of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He is currently working on a new edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home for the Library of America and as of January, 2019, is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow.

All are welcome to attend; more information, including how to RSVP, can be found on

2018 and 2019 events included:

North American Girls' Literature

Dr. Dawn Sardella-Ayres delivered this open seminar on November 21, 2018. Girls’ Literature is something that seems to be understood by association and assumption, rather than any methodological critical study. By exploring several key texts often described critically as “classic books for girls” through lenses of genre theory, intersectionality, and gender performativity, Dr. Sardella-Ayres raised questions about 1) how we can define “girls’ literature” or a “girl’s story,” 2) what entails the girl’s coming-of-age, or bildungsroman, and 3) what it means to be a girl in these texts, in America, and in history.

FEAST: Consuming Children. A roundtable discussion on food in children's literature

The roundtable discussion on November 27, 2018, marked the launch of a special issue of FEAST journal, guest edited by CRCLC member Sarah Hardstaff and alumna Dawn Sardella-Ayres, presented food as a powerful and versatile force in children’s culture. This issue aims to examine the tension between children as consumers and children as consumables, recognising that the figure of the child can perform as both actor and goal in food-related transactions.

This event bought together contributors to FEAST: Consuming Children to discuss their specific contributions and the many meanings of food in children’s literature more generally. The special issue of the journal can be found online.

Literacies, Literature and Learning: reading classrooms differently

In this open seminar on December 3, 2018, Dr. Karin Murris (University of Cape Town) presented material from a newly published edited book associated with the international NRF funded research on Decolonising Early Childhood Discourses in Higher Education. This research project has been working with posthumanist and new materialist theories to decolonise childhood and early childhood education practices.

Christianity and Children's Literature

Dr. Carl F. Miller of Palm Beach Atlantic University delivered this open seminar on October 16, 2018. It considered the complicated relationship between Christianity and children's literature over the past century-and-a-half, with the objective to move beyond those mainstream English and American children's writers most traditionally associated with Christianity – such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle. In particular, it examined the influence of Christian doctrine on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871), the complex relationship between Carlo Collodi's Le adventure di Pinocchio (1883) and the Roman Catholic Church, and the contemporary balance within American picture books between Christian morality and secular ethics.

2018 Picturebooks Conference; Synergy and Contradiction: How Picturebooks and Picture Books Work

The 2018 Picturebooks Conference; Synergy and Contradiction: How Picturebooks and Picture Books Work took place on September 6 – 8, 2018, focusing on the following context and theme:

The aesthetic aspects of storytelling through word and image have been studied extensively in the past thirty-odd years. In 1982, the Swedish scholar Kristin Hallberg launched the concept of iconotext that has been widely employed in discussing the phenomenon. Perry Nodelman's Words about Pictures (1988) was a landmark that placed the subject firmly within children's literature research. The first international conference wholly devoted to the art form was held in Stockholm in 1998, featuring, among others, Jane Doonan and William Moebius. An international network was established in 2007, running biennial conferences and workshops. Dozens of monographs and edited volumes have been published, the most recent More Words about Pictures (2017), edited by Perry Nodelman, Naomi Hamer and Mavis Reimer, and The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks (2017), edited by Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer.

And yet there is no universal consensus about the object of inquiry, starting with the controversy of spelling. While most scholars agree that the interaction of words and images is essential, there is no clear agreement on the difference between illustrated books and picture book/picturebooks, nor on the differences and similarities between picture books/picturebooks and comics, nor on the relationship between printed and digital texts.

The conference included a public lecture delivered by author and illustrator Pam Smy, a keynote lecture by Perry Nodelman, and a much-anticipated closing discussion between Maria Nikolajeva and Perry Nodelman moderated by Clémentine Beauvais. Photographs from the event can be found on our Facebook page, with follow up posts available on the blog. Additionally, organizers and attendees documented the conference on social media using the hashtag #howpbswork2018.

4th Cambridge Symposium on Cognitive Approaches to Children's Literature

The 4th Cambridge Symposium on Cognitive Approaches to Children's Literature took place at the Faculty of Education on July 5, 2018. Cognitive approaches to literature (also known as cognitive poetics, literary cognitive criticism, and cognitive narratology) is a relatively new field of literary criticism. Over the past decade it has become an exciting and growing presence in children's literary studies. The day involved three panels of invited speakers, who through discussing their broad range of interests and specialisms demonstrated the current multiplicity of perspectives in cognitive approaches to children's literature. Professor Lisa Zunshine (University of Kentucky) presented the keynote.

Autism in Children's Fiction

Dr. Shalini Vohra (Sheffield Hallam University) delivered this open seminar on June 6, 2018, on how fictional presentations of individuals with autism in novels can work against stereotypes and create empathy, if inclusive approaches are used when writing such novels. Using the example of "M is for Autism" Vohra discussed how including marginalised voices in the research process centers the voice and experience of autistic individuals. 

The Childish Turn in Children's Literature Studies

Dr. Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak of Anglia Ruskin University and University of Wroclaw presented this open seminar on May 30, 2018. She spoke about the effect of children's rights discourses and protagonist- and rights-based ideology in provoking a change in the power relationship between researcher and subject in childhood studies. Members of the CRCLC reflected on the seminar on the Children's Literature at the University of Cambridge blog.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh

On May 1, 2018, Kathryn Aalto delivered this talk on what can be learned from studying the intersection of nature and culture in A. A. Milne's classic tales, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

International Symposium on Intergenerational Solidarity in Children's Literature and Culture

This symposium, held on April 28, 2018, explored how children's literature, often seen as reflecting age hierarchies, may in fact represent, embody, and enable inter-age connectivity. Topics included the representation of intergenerational justice in texts for young readers, fictional children's participation in public and political decision-making, intergenerational memory in children's books, and intergenerational solidarity in children's literature research. Speakers included Vanessa Joosen (University of Antwerp), Maria Nikolajeva (University of Cambridge), and YA author Peadar Ó Guilín.

The symposium was organized jointly by the University of Cambridge (Dr. Zoe Jaques) and Anglia Ruskin University (Dr. Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak). It is an output of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie research project ChildAct -- Shaping a Preferable Future: Children Reading, Thinking and Talking about Alternative Communities and Times, conducted at ARU. The symposium received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 745888.

10th Anniversary Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture

The 10th anniversary of this lecture series, which coincided with the 250th anniversary celebration year of events of Homerton College, was delivered by award winning novelist Frances Hardinge on April 19, 2018.

Moving Experiences: Children's Literate Lives in a Mobile Ecology

Professor Margaret Mackey of the University of Alberta delivered this open lecture on March 20, 2018 at the CRCLC, on the fluidity of children's literacy in a multi-media focused contemporary society.