BSLS Round Table on Children’s Literature and Science

Later this week I will be presenting as part of a Round Table at the annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science.

Child characters and ideas about childhood and child readers have held significant place in literature, science writing, and educational discourse at least since the late eighteenth century. With shifting perceptions of what childhood itself constituted, they were the subject of education, as much as they were also challengers of status quo of ‘science’, of knowledge, and the societal structures facilitating it. This round table discuss the shifting dynamics in the relationships between children, literature, and science together, in a variety of contexts.

Contributors and topics:
Chair: Prof Martin Willis (Cardiff)

  • Prof Laurence Talairach-Vielmas (Toulouse/ Centre Alexandre Koyré), ‘Science for little girls? The Case of Aunt Judy’s Magazine’
  • Dr Will Tattersdill (Birmingham), Dinosaurs and Palaeontology for Children
  • Kanta Dihal (St Anne’s, Oxford), Quantum Physics and Children’s Reading
  • Dr Emily Alder (Edinburgh Napier), Frankenstein Retold for Children
  • Franziska Kohlt (Brasenose, Oxford), Through the two-way mirror and what Alice found there
  • Dr Melanie Keene (Homerton, Cambridge), Even the parodies: Sayers, satire, and children’s literature and science

Questions the panel will explore will include:

  • What strategies are deployed in science writing for children? How have these changed over time? How do they differ for younger and older children, or for different scientific disciplines?
  • How does children’s fiction represent scientific enquiry and scientists? What does it mean to be a child scientist in a fictional text?
  • How does science inform constructions of childhoods in literature? How have these changed over time?
  • What roles do form and genre play in how science is communicated to children or represented in their popular culture?
  • Can taking science as a lens help us to rethink how we value and evaluate children’s literature, as well as the capacities of child readers?

This discussion will be developed into an edited book collection of essays on children’s literature and science.


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