Sunday, 26 May 2013

How children's literature research started

I had a reason recently to look back at my early studies of children's literature, and it struck me that when I took my first undergrad course in Stockholm in 1982, some of the standard works you find today on any syllabus had not been published. No Jacqueline Rose, no Words about Pictures, no Don't Tell the Grownups. So what was on our syllabus? Our main book was a translation from Danish, From Snowhite to Snoopy, and was exactly what it sounds like: a thematic and historical overview. We read some chapters from a Swedish collection titled Children's Literature and Children's Literature Research, published in 1972, which covered a few central topics, such as tomboy literature. We also had my old professor's profound study Form in Children's Literature which was, I am convinced, one of the very first studies in the world to pay attention to the aesthetic features of children's literature, rather than topics and ideology. The Swedish Children's Books Institute had a fabulous international reference collection, and it subscribed to all major journals. In our doctoral seminar, we discussed Peter Hunt's early articles on childist criticism and Peter Hollindale's “Ideology and the Children’s Book” as they appreared. We read Rose and Jack Zipes, Humphrey Carpenter's The Secret Gardens, Aidan Chambers' Booktalk, Juliet Dussinberre's Alice to the Lighthouse. We read some excellent German and Norwegian research. Then we started producing our own colletions and textbooks: on young adult novel, on picturebooks; later, after I finished my PhD, I edited a volume on literary theory and children's literature which was used in every course in Sweden for a long time. As is often the case, we wrote books we wanted to read and needed for our teaching. Sadly, none of this early Swedish research is known and acknowledged in the English-speaking world, with the one exception. The concept of iconotext, used in most studies of picturebooks today, was coined by my fellow student Kristin Hallberg in a journal article in 1982. 



Isabel Ibaceta said...

Dear María,

Is it possible to have the complete information of your fellow student's paper?

It would be interesting to have a look of it.

I just found your blog and it seems to me that it is an excellent contribution!!.

Best wishes,

Isabel Ibaceta G.

Maria Nikolajeva said...

Dear Isabel, the paper is in Swedish, so inless you read Swedish, I am afraid it's of little use for you. But the concept has been used widely in picturebook studies.

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