The terror of the toy cupboard: exploring the changing constructions of naughtiness in children’s literature

The Child and the Book conference at the University of Cambridge (Day 3)

Fiction won’t tell you the whole story, but it will take you to places that life won’t – Sicilian ducal houses, 13th-century convents, cities in Calvino that never existed. And sometimes with a shock of recognition, you meet in real life a friend from a book (Hensher, 2011).

If artifacts and fragments of building in physical archaeology invite the observer to reconstruct past ways of life, in the archaeology of the emotions and consciousness, these fragments constitute narrative writing, poetry, and drama (Oatley, 1992). Oatley’s observation brings to mind the rich array of topics discussed on the final day of the conference, from existentialist approaches to Penelope Lively’s novels, to empirical research in place, identity and urban/rural space in contemporary Canadian young adult texts.

Lisa Sainbury’s highly anticipated keynote lecture followed the morning proceedings, through which the multifarious themes of this unique interdisciplinary coalescence were elegantly signposted and linked together. Through her analysis of Agard and Kitamura’s The Young Inferno, Sainsbury demonstrated how children’s literature engages in and is open to philosophical debate in intriguing ways. Interestingly, much discussion and debate in the preceding sessions was focused on the moral and pedagogical properties of the fable. In Agard’s Inferno Aesop replaces Virgil in the role of the guide who understands the colloquial spirit of the Divine Comedy and endeavours to protect the young seeker from the sin of indifference.

Following the keynote lecture, members of the steering committee and support team addressed the audience and delegates were reminded of an exciting upcoming conference at the University of Roehampton. The organising committee members and support team were thanked for their contribution to an immensely successful and stimulating conference, especially Debbie Pullinger, Erin Spring, Clémentine Beauvais, Ghada Al-Yagout, Ashley Wilson, Susan Tan and Faye Dorkas Yung for their cheerfulness, equanimity, and fastidiousness. Finally, professor Maria Nikolajeva’s closing address acknowledged the committee’s hard work: her students have passed their “Owls” and “Newts”, to become fully fledged wizards! 
  

Works Cited 


Hensher, P. (2011, July 09). Fiction takes you to places that life can’t. The Independent . Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/philip-hensher/philip-hensher-fiction-takes-you-to-places-that-life-cant-2309538.html


Oatley, K. (1992). Best Laid Schemes: The Psychology of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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