Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Harry Potter Conference: Children's Literature and Academia

There has been a lot of talk this week in academic circles and specifically in the children's literature world about a conference that took place last week at St. Andrews University.  The Guardian put out an article, you can read it here, which tried to string out the pros and cons to an academic conference devoted to the Harry Potter book series.  The article seemed to lean towards the side of academics like John Mullan, a professor of English at University College London, who obviously believe that children's literature is not worthy of academic study, since it is "not for grownups".  This article was followed up with a response at the UK's Huffington Post culture blog with an article written by B.J. Epstein, a professor of literature and translation at East Anglia University and who has devoted much time to the study of children's literature, who pointed out the many benefits and worthwhile reasons that children's literature should be studied in an academic setting, here's that article, definitely work reading.  Professor Epstein states the following in her article: 


"Why is work for children not an appropriate subject for academic study? One could turn this question around and ask how anything could possibly be more important than what the next generation reads and is taught.
What children are exposed to says a lot about our society. How can we not want to explore this? How can we not consider it absolutely vital to study and analyse what we are telling children in literature and how we are telling them it?"
And to her many wonderful reasons I would like to add something that for some reason seems to never be considered or mentioned as much, that children's books, good children's books, are extremely well written!  They are works of literary, and often visual, art in their own right.  Moreover, not only are authors specifically of children's literature wonderful creators, from Lewis Carroll to Roald Dahl, but there are many so-called "grown up" authors who have tried their hand at children's literature and have created wonderful works for children that are no less works of great literature than that aimed at adults.  To add to this point I would recommend taking a look at a few posts over at the blog "Brain Pickings" edited by Maria Popova in which she has posted a few times on children's books written by extremely well known "grown up" authors, from Aldous Huxley to Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot to Ian Fleming.  Here are two of the links to her blog posts on this subject: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/19/7-childrens-books-by-adult-literature-authors/ AND http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/25/childrens-books-by-adult-authors-2/
Thank you to all of the wonderful professors throughout the world who study the art of children's literature and give it the respect it deserves, and to the many universities who actually have departments for the study of this wonderful piece of human culture!

3 comments:

  1. I've really emerged myself in children's literature since my daughter was 11 years old. Lately, I've been reading LOTS of books for tweens & young adults. I think children's literature is wonderful!!!!

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  2. I have a slight obsession and addiction to children's literature. There are so many beautifully written and illustrated literature works created for children. I only recently discovered that a Children's Literature degree existed and am enrolling to start next year. I'm beyond excited!

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    1. Same here, just a bit of an obsession haha! I'm an undergraduate and I'm concentrating in Children's Lit, I also discovered that such a thing existed a few years ago and it changed so much for me! Good luck with your degree!!

      Thanks for stopping by here at my blog :) Your blog looks wonderful as well, looking forward to following along!

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