The Spatial Dynamics of Children’s Series Literature

Michael Cornelius's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
January 31, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Childhood and Education, Humanities, Literature, Popular Culture Studies, Area Studies

Call for Papers: The Spatial Dynamics of Children’s Series Literature

 

“Geography,” Nedra Reynolds asserts, “fixes identities” (149). That is to say, where we come from—and where we are, literally, spatially, environmentally, figuratively—has a huge impact on who we are. Of course, theories of space and place also hold that the converse is equally true—that we have an impact on those spaces and places we inhabit and/or dwell within. We make space: our agencies, our cultures, our beliefs and values and understandings shape the macro- and micro-environments around us. And yet, just as much, those places we inhabit shape us, causing us to adapt ourselves to them, causing us to learn how to fit—to fit in, to fit out, to fit up—or, just as relevant, how to simply exist within the spaces we daily inhabit.

This collection seeks to interrogate the nature of space and place within children’s series literature. It specifically seeks to interrogate the spatial dynamics of children’s series literature in both series books and books in a series. Scholars of children’s literature make important generic, structural, and cultural distinctions between books in a series and series books. Books in a series—such as the Little House books or The Hunger Games trilogy—often function as extended bildungsroman, books that explore the growth and maturation of their central character or characters. These books are hallmarked by change: not only do the dynamic character(s) at the heart of the story demonstrate corporeal and psychological development, but the other components of the books themselves demonstrate a sense of cultural, political, or social maturity. Series books, however, are dominated by static natures. The central character—usually a flat, unchanging trope more than a fully realized, fleshed out, dynamic figure—is a static creation. Often, these characters do not even age, let alone change. Typified by series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, these books act as truly distinct counterparts to their books in a series kin.

The central characters in books in a series often have powerful relationships to the spaces that define them: Laura Ingalls in her Little House; Katniss Everdeen and the Capital; Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Changes in space are often indicative of powerful transformations within the protagonist figures as well. Series books are in some way opposite to this; though characters like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys frequently move through different geographies, they almost never change as characters, not really. And yet one could argue that the only dynamic that ever experiences any alteration in a series like Nancy Drew is setting. Nancy travels the world; inhabits rural, suburban, and urban space; visits regional and contested space; some series characters even inhabit outer spaces or underwater realms, if only for a time. Surely there is something significant about the relationship of series books to those spaces their protagonists inhabit?

The editors of this collection seek essays that explore the spatial dynamics found within children’s series literature, whether books in a series or series books (or those series that are not easy to define as one or the other). Essays should focus primarily on one series, though others can be brought in as a point of referent. The ideas contained in this call for papers are meant to be jumping off points for your own essays; we are open to a wide range of papers exploring the subject at hand.

All essays should be between 5000-7000 words. Abstracts are due 1 September 2019. Deadline for essays is 31 January 2020. Contact the chief editor, Michael Cornelius (mcornelius@wilson.edu), with any questions you may have concerning the project.

 

Editors:

Michael G. Cornelius, Marybeth Richards, and Courtney Gotham

Wilson College

Email abstracts and questions to Michael: mcornelius@wilson.edu

 

Please cross-list where appropriate.

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