Hello, readers, and welcome to this first Sunday blog post. Sunday posts will be written by PhD students (a different one each week), and will be devoted to what has been happening in the busy lives of Cambridge Children’s Literature Students (CCLS). Extra blog posts, free of charge, will appear with Whac-a-Mole-like unpredictability here and there and now and then.
This Sunday, the task has befallen me, and so I begin.
The Case of Parents Reading Picturebooks; or, the Impossibility of Children’s Fiction
Lent term in Cambridge ended (as awkwardly as usual) on Thursday, and since Friday we have been officiously on holiday. But we CCLS never stop working. Restless and passionate investigators, we bring our work with us on trains, boats and planes, as I politely informed my Eurostar neighbour who appeared perplexed when I chuckled non-stop for a full two hours over my battered copy of Jennings Goes to School.
Work does go on during the ‘holidays’ as intensely as term-time. A collection of picturebooks-to-be-written-about has now flourished on the dinner table of my parents’ minuscule Parisian flat. The situation caused much huffing and puffing and hurried talk of Le Scandale of Obedient Daughter Turned Children’s Literature Doctorante. That is, until Maman & Papa realised that the picturebooks in question are in fact re-writings of historical events from their own childhood (more on this, perhaps, some other time). They are now laughing nostalgically and getting all teary-eyed as the pages trigger a worryingly ever-increasing quantity of ‘How time has flied!’ and ‘Oooh I remember this!’ moments.
That is basically The Crux of Post-Jacqueline-Rose Children’s Literature Criticism in action for you, live from Paris.
Essay 2: MPhil version
The end of Lent term signalled, for the MPhils, the deadline for Essay 2, which requires one to gather and analyse children’s responses to picturebooks. Marveling over the ability of the children studied to outperform the adult researcher at visual literacy is compulsory. The MPhil CCLS, I’ve heard, have been studying various picturebooks for this exercise, ranging from Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park to Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy.
A perfect introduction to empirical research in the style of Arizpe& Styles (supervisor placement alert), this assignment allows all CCLS to understand the subtleties of Nikolajeva& Scott’s categories of word/picture interaction (supervisor placement alert).
Claim To Fame of the Term
A particularly committed MPhil student succeeded in contacting Shaun Tan to inform him of her firm intention to submit one of his picturebooks to the scrutiny of young readers and to her own analysis. Not remotely anxious, the good man was courteous enough to answer her queries.
A few days later, he got an Oscar. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The Force is strong with young CCLS padawans.
Essay 2: PhD version
Further down the academic Styx, the PhD students’ ship is valiantly soaring through a deluge of conference papers, articles, chapters, reviews, seminars, and, for the first-years, another Essay 2. The beast this time is called ‘A methodological rationale’ and consists of a labyrinth of concepts relating to research methods. The exercise, though interesting, leaves the theoretical researcher slightly baffled, as she finds herself compelled to shoehorn her ramblings meditations into the solid frame of the Social Sciences, as shown in Fig.1.
In Other News
In a nice meta-newsical twist, the launch of this blog is news in itself, but I will here refer more fruitfully to the new website of the Cambridge-Homerton Research and Teaching Centre in Children’s Literature (CHRTCCL as we affectionately nickname it when we feel like letting our throats do all the talking). Revamping the website was a blood/sweat/tears sort of enterprise, so feel free to be as vocal as possible about the fruit of our very caffeinated efforts.
Importantly, it now contains information about each of the courses, a Student Community page, and up-to-date details on supervisors and PhD students. Not mentioning inspirational and sometimes irreverent quotes from children’s books. I would like to reiterate here that we are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the course. Leave a comment on this blog or contact us via our Facebook Page…
Wait, what Facebook page?
A likely tale!
Alongside the new CHRTCCL website, we have also launched a Facebook page which I suggest you ‘like’, if you like; I like to think that many people already like it, and actually some even ‘like’ it, which is, like, evidence that it’s as likeable as anything, like it or not.
Here is a cliffhangerish list of what to expect from upcoming posts on the CCLS blog:
– A Scandinavian trip to the Child and the Book conference, where picturebooks of the new millenium will be discussed and the mysteries of Norwegian money examined in an Arthur-Weasley fashion.
– An Open Day in the company of the wonderful Michael Rosen, and, hopefully, of a few hundred potential applicants.
Until then, nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak to all.