(Note from the blog administrator: This is the second entry in our look back at the children’s literature panels and events at the English Graduate Organization’s annual conference on October 28 and 29. Part one is already up, with parts three and four to follow on Thursday.)
By Casey Wilson
The last panel of the EGO Conference, like its predecessor the day before, featured members of the Children’s Culture Reading Group. I had the pleasure of moderating the panel, called “Contextual (Re)Visions of Children’s Literature”, for a standing-room only crowd.
Rebekah Fitzsimmons (the co-president of EGO herself!) gave the first paper, called “Intimate Text: Novelty Through Typeface in Octavian Nothing and The Knife of Never Letting Go“. She explored the ways that these two texts, which are marked by striking differences in genre, theme, and setting, echo each other through their inventive use of typeface. Both of of these novels break up the traditional flow of the text with overwhelming transformations of typography, and Rebekah presented a fascinating analysis of the role of these design choices in developing the reader’s experience of the stories.
We then transitioned into Mariko Turk’s paper, titled “Let’s Talk About Accessories!: Rereading American Girl’s Accessorizing of History”. Mariko offered a compelling argument about the relationship between the American Girl novels and their merchandizing, noting that by selling innocuous items like nightgowns and books to go with their dolls, the company effectively directs their young readers’ attention away from the darker side of the historical periods on display.
The final paper came from Kendra Holmes, who read “Children’s Literature: What’s So Childish About It?: Broken Psyches, Re-envisioned Identities, and Alternative-Histories in the Confinement of a Children’s Text”. Kendra worked with two seminal texts of children’s literature, considering how Peter Pan and Alice, and the stories that contain them, speak to the lives and concerns of their respective authors in a way that gives immense power to their work. Kendra proposed that the dangerous and troubling questions asked in these books about religion and identity, among other topics, can only be asked in the supposedly safe realm of children’s literature.
Admittedly, I didn’t do any of these papers full justice — they were all complex and thoughtful in a way that cannot be encapsulated in a few sentences, and they all provoked excellent discussion during the question-and-answer session. All in all, it was a fantastic way to wind up the panel portion of the conference!
Casey Wilson is a first-year PhD student. She is convinced she got smarter just listening to these three papers.