Minor Voices? When Major Literary Authors Write for Children
University Bordeaux Montaigne, France
18-19 March 2016
As part of the research project entitled Power in Minor Mode, the research group CLIMAS (Cultures et Littératures des Mondes Anglophones) is holding a two-day symposium on writers who cross the boundary from adult to children’s literature (or vice versa) in the English language. The notion of minor is not here to be seen as a derogatory term indicating the lower rank in a binary hierarchical structure, but as a dynamic space of empowerment bringing new vitality to the notion of major. Although the very concept of major usually centres on the overbearing nature of an established model demanding conformity or the enduring presence of a prescriptive power structure dictating norms and rules, we explore the ways in which the notion of minor may also contribute to the deconstruction of any prevailing system, to its collapse due to internal contradictions. In this respect the minor can be seen as a potentially permanent dynamic process that does not seek to access the field of the major and establish any kind of comfortable status therein, but on the contrary explores the active power concealed in margins, asides, retreats.
Following on our reflections after the 2015 symposium entitled The Child’s Voice, The Child’s Gaze, this two-day symposium aims to reflect on how children’s literature, far from trying to establish itself as a major literary genre, explores its own marginal position in order to create new modes of knowledge and expression. We will be particularly interested in authors who write both for children and adults, in the ways in which their children’s literature nourishes the “major” art of writing for a literary knowledgeable adult public (e.g. Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot, Louise Erdrich, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Russell Hoban, Ted Hughes, James Joyce, Salman Rushdie, Mary Shelley, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, etc.).
How much space do their children’s books occupy in their whole corpus? Which of the two genres is the major or the minor? And which of the two occupies the minor position in the way in which Gilles Deleuze sees the notion of minor, as a force for creativity, a force of proposition? Why do some established authors opt for children’s literature not as a commercial niche but as a means by which to transmit a different message, to appeal to a different readership through the use of a different voice? How are children’s books depicted in adult literature? What happens when that small dissident voice emerges in a literary text meant for adult readers (Graham Greene’s The Power and The Glory opens and closes, almost, with excerpts from a children’s book read aloud)?
Participants may also question the particular position of texts meant for both children and adults, texts that resist classification in one or other genre and regularly become classics. Are Alice and Huck Finn children’s books or just great books? What are we to think of T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats?
These are just a few avenues that can be explored in the fascinating relationship between children’s books and adult literature, and participants may feel free to suggest any relevant topic for their talk. Papers will be given in English. Abstracts (200-300 words) should be sent also in English to firstname.lastname@example.org before September 30th, 2015. Notification of acceptance will be sent by October 30th, 2015. Proposals should also include name and institutional affiliation, a short bio (no more than 100 words) and email address.
Organizers : Stephanie Benson, Stéphanie Durrans, Sarah Dufaure and Lhorine François