Looking back: My personal highlights of the Children’s Literature MPhil

Lisa Kazianka is an MPhil student who has recently handed in her thesis – yay!

It is done: the thesis is written, printed, bound and handed in. The MPhil 2016/17 has officially come to an end – and I can say that it has been a truly unique experience. I want to use this blog post to briefly reflect on and reminisce about a few of my personal highlights this year:

(1) The children’s lit classes were always interesting and fun, and I benefited so much from all our discussions! What I liked most about the modules was the variety of topics, periods, approaches, critics and texts we covered. Children’s literature offers so many possibilities for research! It was great to receive such a broad overview of the field and also to venture into new ‘territories’, such as picturebooks and poetry, which I had not dealt with academically before. The Research Methods sessions were beneficial for me because we could exchange experiences and thoughts with people from other Education routes, and we could take from the sessions what would be useful for our own projects. I really did miss having regular sessions in Easter term – although I’m also thankful for that, because it would have taken away much-needed thesis-writing time :-).

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Animal-hand-puppet fun in class

(2) Thinking back on all assignments this year, I have to say that my favourite essay was essay 2, the empirical project – although I was almost “scared” of it in the beginning! Coming from a literary studies background, I had never carried out an empirical project and I had never worked with children before. But the topic/book I chose and the sophisticated and surprising responses the children gave during the interviews easily made this my favourite assignment.

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In my essay 2 I wrote about the picturebook biography as a hybrid between fiction and nonfiction, using Jennifer Berne’s On a Beam of Light – A Story of Albert Einstein

(3) There were so many opportunities to go to talks/conferences! Professor Maria Tatar came in December to speak on “Memory, Miniaturization, and the Transformative Energy of Fairy Tales“ – it was a great experience to listen to her talk, especially after studying her books for essay 1! I also really enjoyed the research seminar by Dr Erin Spring (former Cambridge children’s literature MPhil and PhD student) and her colleague Dr Kristine Alexandra, who talked about their projects at the University of Lethbridge in Canada: a reader response study with indigenous adolescents and a digital storytelling project. Their projects are really fascinating and I instantly picked up The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian after the seminar! Another highlight was attending the 3rd Cambridge Symposium on Cognitive Approaches to Children’s Literature, where some of my current MPhil colleagues (Anna, Magdalena and Julia) and a few of our PhD students also presented their work – not just me, but the whole audience, was impressed by their talks! It is amazing to study at a place where such great conferences are happening literally in the same building as our classes.

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Attending talks and conferences

(4) End-of-term tea! Lots of treats and fun children’s literature quizzes – what more could we want to finish off a term?

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Yes to all of these.

(5) And finally, attending the Disney Formal at Trinity Hall – a big thank you to Julia for inviting us! Dressed up as Disney characters, we enjoyed a Disney-themed three-course-meal, with a build-your-own-Olaf for dessert! Between courses, we sang Disney songs, and Julia was crowned for having the best costume. What a night!

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The Disney Formal

 

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Children’s Lit MPhil/MEd students dressing up

I really enjoyed my time as an MPhil student at the Faculty of Education, and I want to thank everyone who made this year special for me, who made me look at things from a new perspective, and who helped me develop – personally and academically. I wish the best of luck to all my MPhil/MEd colleagues and that you may all achieve your goals and take the knowledge and experiences from this programme with you wherever your path may take you 🙂

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