Constitution d’un réseau européen de chercheurs en littérature jeunesse

Nous avons le plaisir de relayer ici l’appel d’un certain nombre de chercheurs issus de pays d’Europe non-anglophones, désireux de constituer un réseau dédié à la recherche en littérature jeunesse.

European Children’s Literature Research Network/Society

  • Małgorzata Cackowska (University of Gdansk)
  • Marnie Campagnaro (University of Padova)
  • Anna Czernow (University of Poznan)
  • Nina Goga (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences)
  • Svetlana Kalezić Radonjić (University of Montenegro)
  • Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (University of Tübingen)
  • Jörg Meibauer (University of Mainz)
  • Smiljana Narančić Kovač (University of Zagreb)

We propose to establish a network/society that focuses on the investigation of European children’s literature. In the following, we outline the advantages we expect to gain and the possible problems to be solved. First, we describe a shortcoming, namely the feeling that a large part of European children’s literature has not been adequately investigated and that scholars sometimes have difficulties publishing their research in international journals. Their effectiveness is therefore limited to their national audience and their research is hardly visible. At international conferences, art works under discussion are often restricted to an anglophone canon and reflect research interests being dependent on an anglophone cultural tradition. However, it goes without saying that Europe has a rich tradition of children’s literature which has always been an important part of world literature, contributing to a world-wide cultural dialogue. Therefore, international children’s literature studies can only benefit from a European Children’s Literature Research network/society.

A network can be understood as a more or less loose connection of scholars and/or institutions that are in regular exchange. A scientific society, with a fixed location, statute and income, means higher organizational efforts, which could, however, be worthwhile in terms of representation within research funding organizations. It seems therefore necessary to consider what could be the best appropriate form of organization.

It is important to emphasize that anyone interested in European children’s literature can become a “member” of the network/society. Membership is thus in no way limited to European citizens. A European Children’s Literature Research network/society could have several thousand members, although of course much depends on what benefits are offered.

What are the goals of the network/society? The first goal is to support research on all aspects of European children’s literature from a historical, theoretical, empirical, and practical point of view. Contrary to the tendency to marginalize or ignore literary history, the network/society takes literary history seriously. It supports all efforts to reconstruct the literary history of individual nations or regions. The theoretical reflection of children’s literature, both against the background of its autonomy and against the background of its commonality with adult literature, should be strengthened, whereby national and regional traditions should also be reflected. Where it is possible and makes sense, children’s literature studies should work empirically, for example within the framework of Digital Humanities or empirical psychological methods (eye movement, EEG, etc.). Moreover, it is important to take a historical, theoretical and empirical view on the practices of teaching European children’s literature in educational settings. Preferably, the isolation of pedagogical efforts in the respective educational traditions of individual countries and regions might be overcome and a path towards comparative didactics of children’s literature could be taken. Despite many efforts to nurture and strengthen European relations, what we know about our neighbors, let alone other European partners, is often modest. Thus, it would be an important task of a European Children’s Literature Research network/society to promote the exchange between countries and regions and to make the resulting knowledge available to all interested parties.

A typical academic procedure serving this purpose is the publication of a journal of European children’s literature. Such a journal should meet the highest academic standards (double-blind peer review), but above all should also carefully support authors in improving their manuscripts. The quality of a journal is not primarily reflected in high rejection rates, but in the level of engagement with authors and reviewers. Another strategy would be the publication of a book series, “Studies in European Children’s Literature”. Of course, such projects require personnel efforts, and this against the backdrop of the typical institutional marginalization of children’s literature research at universities, but if it is possible to strengthen academic cohesion in Europe and to involve young scholars, such projects are not hopeless. Another task consists in organizing or supporting workshops and conferences dealing exclusively with European children’s literature. Because the success of research depends particularly on young researchers, it is a prime task of the network/society to support young academics. Existing initiatives such as the European Master program, summer schools, etc. can be extended by self-organized students’ conferences.

As a matter of fact, such a network/society would not compete with IRSCL. On the contrary, international organizations as well as continental and national organizations could complement each other reasonably. Some European countries already have their own academic societies of children’s literature. These could network and cooperate within a European framework. The cooperation of the sometimes-isolated national researchers within the European Children’s Literature Research Network/Society would strengthen their status and impact with respect to national as well as European institutions. For instance, one may consider applying for EU funding for a European children’s literature research project. Moreover, national research centers or libraries specializing in children’s literature can use the framework of the network/society with a view to intensive international cooperation.

The individual European countries can act as hosts of conferences, etc. and feature their own cultural heritage with regard to literary connections with other European countries. It would be very welcome if smaller countries and regions would also organize workshops and conferences which could be supported by the European Children’s Literature Research network/society.

In the first organizational step, one could gather one or two representatives of all European countries interested in European cooperation and choose them as members of a steering committee. A greater challenge consists in establishing a society with legal status and a democratic electoral system for all positions. Such a society could collect membership fees and thus have its own financial resources.

Note that “Europe” should not be understood in a purely technical sense, for instance EU members. It is important to include European non-EU-members (e.g., Montenegro, Russia, Ukraine, Norway) and allow the inclusion of European neighbors, e.g., Israel, Morocco, or Turkey. Recall that all researchers who are interested in European children’s literature – whether based in Europe or beyond the European continent – are welcome to participate in this network/society. But won’t there be difficulties with communication? For many academics, English remains a hurdle. This affects the ability to present talks at international conferences and to publish papers in English. We do assume that the general language of communication will be English. Yet,  this should not be at the expense of other languages and their literatures. Rather, the European Children’s Literature Research network/society should promote the study of national and regional works of children’s literature in their respective languages and advocate bilingual editions.

Cackowska, Małgorzata et al. 2022. European Children’s Literature Research Network. Manifesto presented to the Child & Book Conference 2022, Valletta, Malta.

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