Children’s Literature & Ecology panel at ‘Extinctions & Rebellions’ Symposium

Just in time for the start of Extinction Rebellion’s Autumn Rebellion, our panel on Children’s Literature and Ecology has been accepted for the “Extinctions and Rebellions” Symposium at the University of Liverpool on the 16th of November.

The panel will fathom the multi-faceted role of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in addressing, digesting and communicating climate crisis across a range of periods and texts.

I will be presenting a paper entitled ‘Of Moths, Chimney-Sweepers and Silent Springs’, in which I will engage with how narrative forms for, or associated with, children have been used to articulate aspects of climate crisis and biodiversity loss, focusing on the example of insects, from the Victorian age to today. Framing this through Environmental Psychology, I will then examine their effectiveness in changing individual and social outlooks on crisis, but also their shortcomings, to show how we can harness their techniques in communicating better in our current moment of crisis.

I will speak alongside Dr Emily Alder (Edinburgh Napier) and Dr Chloe Buckley (Manchester Metropolitan), who will explore ‘Environmental crisis and children’s picture books’ and ‘Weird Ecologies, Precarity and Care in Young Adult Fiction’ respectively. We will be representing part of the ongoing work of the Edinburgh Napier-based Children’s Literature and Science research group.

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Gothic & Fantasy ECR Writing Buddy Group

A new writing group for Gothic & Fantasy ECR scholars & writers has been summoned into life by Dr Karen Graham & myself this week to bring together those of us who in the flurry of daily Stuff™ sometimes find it hard to find the space/time to write, which can also be a rather isolated/isolating exercise.

How’s this going to work? The idea is to post in the group & pair up with one or more buddy, and find a regular time-slot (anything from an hour, an hour-and a half or a writing day) to come together to write (and work on anything writing-related: be it an article, a journalistic piece, or a book). Next, arrange a quick meeting (in person, or via Skype) at the beginning, in which you set out writing goals, have your writing slot (60-90 mins), followed by, a) a quick break, and another session, or b) quick debrief at the end, where you reflect on, and evaluate progress, and set new goals – or even arrange for a subsequent swap-work-and-give-feedback session before your next writing session. I will also provide some guidance for structuring writing sessions or organise longer writing events, such as a writing retreat.

So, join, post in the group, say what you’re working on, and what sort of time-slot/regularity you’re after, connect with a buddy – and off you go! And please share!

 

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‘Timeless Alice’ – Free Public Lecture at Bodleian Library, Oxford

If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT!

I am thrilled to have been invited to give a free lecture at Oxford’s Bodleian Library entitled “Timeless Alice: From the fourth dimension to climate change” on the 6th of July.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains popular, indeed “timeless” – but what does this really mean? Follow Alice on a journey through Lewis Carroll’s contemplation of time, in an age of railways and theories of the fourth dimensions, and find out why that, to this day makes Carroll’s most famous novel the perfect vehicle for modern scientists to explain complex phenomena such as quantum physics, climate change and the unconscious.

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I will be joining three fantastic speakers on the day:

  • 10am: Alice’s Nightmare in Wonderland: an innovative adventure gamebook with a dangerous twist – Jon Green
  • 11am: Alice in Guinness-time: a 1960s’ advertising campaign using Lewis Carroll’s characters – Brian Sibley
  • 1pm: Alice in Fashion-land: over a century of changing trends and designs inspired by Wonderland  – Kiera Vaclavik
  • 2pm: Timeless Alice: From the fourth dimension to climate change – Franziska Kohlt

The talks are free, and will take place at the Lecture Hall of the Weston Library – seats are limited, though, so better arrive in time!

 

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Children’s Literature and Science Seminar at Edinburgh

This phenomenal-looking seminar on Children’s Literature and Science, and the many facets of the field, will be taking place this Friday at Edinburgh Napier University. I will be giving my first paper on my new research project on children’s literature and its role in environmentalism. If you’d like to attend please contact em.alder@napier.ac.uk – and definitely watch this space for more on this field from Edinburgh in the future!

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IRSCL Panel ‘The Silence of Nature: Children’s Literature and Science’

The biannual IRSCL conference “Silence and Silencing in Children’s Literature” will take place at the University of Stockholm in August, and I am pleased that our panel on Children’s Literature and Science has just been accepted! It will cover ground from Morris to Moomins – and contain the following papers:

– Franziska Kohlt “Conversations with beetles: The struggle against Nature’s Silence in Victorian and contemporary CliFi for children
– Jenny Willner “Cell biology and Melancholy in the Moomin Valley: Homsan, Haeckel and the Life of Protozoa”
– Vera Kaulbarsch “Silence, Ghosts and Nature in Walter Benjamin’s Texts on Childhood”

Hope to see some of you there!

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‘Alice in Wonderland & Science’ film for University of Oxford

In August I was extremely excited to be invited to shoot a little image film about my work on Victorian fantasy literature and science at Christ Church, Oxford. Christ Church kindly let me use some of Lewis Carroll’s own manuscript materials from their collection (have a look at some of their digitised items here) – including his photographs, proofs, sketches, letters, and his dedicated presentation copy of a first edition copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! I also speak about Victorian children’s literature’s ties to Victorian Science Communication & Education, about Victorian Lunatic Asylums – and Charles Dickens’s visit to one – and how all of that can change how we think about Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature in general – I hope you like it!  

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Railways, biodiversity, agricultural history and…Through the Looking-Glass?

On the 25th of November I will be giving a talk at the Abingdon Arms, Beckley, just outside Oxford.

The occasion is not only that the award-winning Pub overlooks Otmoor, the nature reserve which some believe may have inspired Lewis Carroll’s chessboard landscape in Through the Looking-Glass (I will investigate this claim), but also the planned resurrection of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway through this area of scientific interest, which is noted especially for its biodiversity by the RSPB.

Oxford is well-known to have inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), but the extensive influence of the Oxfordshire countryside on Through The Looking-Glass (1871) is less frequently discussed. My talk will therefore not only uncover some of these inspirations, from Oxford’s architecture to Oxfordshire’s agricultural history, but also illuminate how Lewis Carroll’s wider interest in nature, science and industry – and thus also the railways – shaped Through the Looking-Glass, and explore how this can help us approach and rethink contemporary challenges posed to the balance between nature and the necessities of modern life. (Announcements for the talk have appeared also here and here)

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The Looking-Glass countryside, John Tenniel

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