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Children's Literature

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The Children's Literature Unit (CLU) comprises a distinguished group of academics and authors.

Professor Kim Reynolds' most recent work is on Modernism and progressive writing for children in first half of the twentieth century, for which she was awarded a Major Leverhulme Research Fellowship. In 2013 she won the biennial International Brothers Grimm Award for an outstanding body of research into children's literature, and the Children's Literature Association Book Award in 2009 for her monograph Radical Children's Literature.

David Almond is one of the most internationally celebrated children's authors writing today, renowned for novels and picturebooks including Skellig (1999), The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (2011) and Boy Who Swam With Piranhas (2012). Among many others, he has won the Carnegie Medal, two Whitbread Awards, the Eleanor Farjeon award, and the 2010 international Hans Christian Andersen Award (the so-called 'children's literature's Nobel').

Professor Matthew Grenby works chiefly on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century children's literature and culture. His most recent monograph, The Child Reader 1700-1840, won the 2012 Harvey Darton Award.

Dr Lucy Pearson researches modern and contemporary children's literature. Much of her work is undertaken in close collaboration with Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books, whose visitor centre and archive are located in Newcastle.

Two other eminent critics are also part of the team: the author, reviewer, collector and children's book historian Brian Alderson (another winner of the Eleanor Farjeon Award) is a Visiting Fellow and leads an annual series of seminars ('Looking at Children's Books'). The distinguished critic Peter Hunt, the UK's other winner of the International Brothers Grimm Award, is a Visiting Professor and regularly lectures here.

One of the distinctive strengths of this research cluster, unique in the UK, is the wide historical range covered by its researchers. Professor Kate Chedgzoy's work explores the concept of a 'renaissance for children'. A particular focus in on Shakespeare for children. This work links with research into Elizabethan child players by Dr Shehzana Mamujee, and by Professor Peter Reynolds, who has been commissioned to recreate early modern performances of plays originally written for child or adolescent actors by the Australian Research Council History of the Emotions in Europe project based at the University of Western Australia. Professor Matthew Grenby is interested in how 'Children's Literature' came to establish itself as a separate and successful sector of print culture in the long eighteenth century, and Dr Laura Kirkley, works on eighteenth-century Anglo-French children's writers. Dr Martin Dubois focuses on nineteenth-century children's literature, with a particular expertise in nonsense writing.

We also have extensive research expertise in modern and contemporary children's literature and culture. Professor Kim Reynolds' forthcoming monograph will be entitled Modernism, the Left, and Progressive Writing for Children, 1900-1945. She has written a series of articles exploring attitudes to the First World War in children's books, which links to the Leverhulme Trust-funded project Approaching War: Childhood, Culture and the First World War, led by Dr Stacy Gillis in collaboration with colleagues in Australia and Canada. Dr Lucy Pearson works chiefly on British children's publishing of the 1960s and 1970s, while Dr Helen Freshwater has received a Philip Leverhulme Prize for her research into the representation of children and childhood in contemporary British theatre and performance. Moving beyond the contemporary, our work includes Professor Grenby's AHRC-funded 'Heritage Stories' project investigating on the role of narrative in engaging children with heritage, specifically using digital technology, Dr Pearson's interests in fan cultures and digital media, and Professor Reynolds' investigation of future directions, and aesthetic and ideological experimentation, in children's literature.

 

Professor Matthew Grenby discusses his research in the following video:

 

Archives

Staff in the CLU work closely with Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books. Besides using Seven Stories' exhibition and events programme as a means to disseminate research, CLU staff take a role in the development of exhibitions and have helped to shape the Seven Stories archive (as well as drawing on it for their research).

Newcastle University's Robinson Library holds important collections of historical children's books that complement those of Seven Stories, including the Butler Collection of pre-modern children's books, the Meade Collection of L.T. Meade's children's titles, some fine collections of chapbooks and popular literature, and the contents of several early modern school libraries. The Robinson Library is also home to the Booktrust Collection, an expanding archive representing children's book publishing in Britain since the late 1970s, from toy and board books to non-fiction, and picture books to young adult novels.

Postgraduates

At postgraduate level, modules on children's literature are currently available in the School's taught MA in English Literature 1500-1900. The School of English also offers an MLitt in English Literature specialising in Children's Literature, a masters-level qualification gained through a combination of taught modules and independent research. A personal curriculum is designed by students and their supervisors to suit their own individual needs. Our current doctoral students work on many different aspects of children's literature within an excellent research environment. Staff and students studying children's literature meet weekly for work-in-progress sessions at the Children's Literature Unit Graduate Group (CLUGG). The School hosts a regular series of seminars on aspects of children's literature, and other training events are arranged throughout the year, often in collaboration with Seven Stories. We host the prestigious annual Fickling Lecture.