Visualizing (Children’s Literature) Theory

By Emily Murphy

This past semester I was part of Scott Nygren’s video production seminar. The theme of the course was “Networked Traces,” and we spent a good portion of the class thinking about how video could be used to work through theoretical ideas. The goal was to develop ideas in a way not possible through the written word, and so we were encouraged to avoid text as much as possible when making our videos.

The video that you’ll be viewing is the final project from this course. It developed out of my interest in filming public spaces around Gainesville. You’ll notice the slow rhythms in the video, which are meant to invite the viewer to pay closer attention to the images and ambient sounds in the video (so make sure you have your volume up high enough!). The video is not meant to be forceful in terms of a particular idea or concept, but instead to slowly build in complexity due to the viewer’s own associations with the images and sounds.

You might very well be wondering what all this has to do with children’s literature. You’ll probably notice that each of the major sequences feature the voices of children. These voices were very much the result of chance encounters, and all of the voices in the video were unscripted. During the filming process, it began to seem that I just could not avoid children—they were literally everywhere! The voices became a new challenge for me. As I worked them into the video, I began struggling with ways to include these voices while simultaneously complicating the viewer’s relationship to them.

I’m still not convinced that I managed to combat nostalgia as much as I’d hoped. But I think the thing to take away here is that creative projects can actually be very productive for thinking through key concepts in children’s literature—it’s amazing what you can do when you combine the power of the right and the left side of your brain! If you’re inspired at all by this, then I encourage you to apply for the panel I’m organizing along with Marilisa Jimenez for the upcoming ChLA conference.

CFP: Creating New Possibilities: Children’s Lit Theory as Creative Act

Creativity and play are often associated with children but rarely with children’s literature scholarship. In an effort to engage with this year’s theme of “literary slipstreams,” this panel will consider the possibilities that arise from merging creative work with traditional literary scholarship. We invite proposals that deviate from the traditional format of the paper presentation and incorporate creative aspects (e.g., original films, poems, music, etc.). Some criticism should be included, however, in order to demonstrate the benefit of a creative approach in scholarship about children’s literature and culture.

Please send a 300-500 word abstract, a brief bio, and 5 bibliographic sources to Emily Murphy (oyama@ufl.edu) by December 31. Decisions will be emailed by January 5th before the ChLA submission deadline.

Emily is a PhD student.

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Categories: CFP, Creative Corner, Critical Conversations

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