The Child’s Plaything: Literature, Creativity, and Childhood

Workshop held at the University of Exeter, November 2010.

Funded by the British Academy.


Conference Programme

9.00: Registration

9.30 Introductions

9.45 Panel 1. Figuring Creativity: Writing For/With Children

– Debra Myhill (Education, Exeter) “Shaping Stories, Weaving Texts: Writers as Designers”

– Sue Walsh (CIRCL, Reading) “Irony and Maturity”

Respondent: Cariad Astles (Drama, Exeter)

10.30 Tea/Coffee

10.45 Roundtable: Creative Transgressions: Taboos and Horrors

– George Rousseau (History, Oxford) “Taboos and Horrors in the Juvenile World: The Longitudinal View”

– Lily Chang (History, Oxford) “Constructing Taboos and Horrors Among Chinese Children in the Twentieth Century”

– Cristina Goueva (History, Oxford) “The Taboos and Horrors in Brazilian Literature for Children, 1910-2010”

Chair: Philip Hensher  (Creative Writing, Exeter)

11.45: Return of the Gashlycrumb Tinies

Visual performance presentation by Howard Hollands (Art & Design, Middlesex) and Victoria de Rijke (Arts and Education, Middlesex), member of FourPlay.

12.45: Lunch 

“Down In The Forest, Something Stirred” Library Special Collections Exhibition

1.45: Panel 2. Pattern Recognition: Cognition and Creativity

– Robert Mack (English, Exeter) “Evolutionary Studies, Literature, and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments

– Maria Nikolajeva (Education, Cambridge) “How to read a children’s book and why: Preamble to literary cognitivism and children’s literature”

– Anthony Wilson (Education, Exeter) “Teachers’ conceptualisations of the creative and the critical in poetry composition”

Respondent: Pamela Knights (English, Durham)

2.45: Tea/Coffee

3. 00: Panel III: Crossovers: Reading/Writing Childhood

– Neil Cocks (CIRCL, Reading) “Reading and the Imagination”

– Matthew Grenby (English, Newcastle) “Before Crossover?”

– Janet Evans. (Education, Liverpool Hope) “Reading The Visual: Creative and Aesthetic Responses To Picturebooks and Fine Art”

– Sam North (Creative Writing, Exeter) “Multiple Failures”

Respondent: Maeve Pearson (English, Exeter)

4.15: Closing Roundtable

5.00: Close

6.00: Performance “Storytelling – Victorian Fairy Tales”

Geoff Fox and Peter Hamilton from The Crediton TaleTellers

7.30: Dinner



 Panel 1. Figuring Creativity: Writing For/With Children.

Respondent: Cariad Astles (Drama, Exeter)

Debra Myhill (Education, Exeter) “Shaping Stories, Weaving Texts: Writers as Designers”

As young people develop as writers, they have to become increasingly sophisticated at shaping text to satisfy their own rhetorical intentions. This has been theorised through the conceptual construct of writing as design.  Arguing from different paradigmatic stances, Sharples (1999) offers a socio-cognitive stance, outlining the design processes as principally about juggling the multiple demands of writing;  Kress and van Leeuwen (2001) focus more on the design demands of writing in a multi-modal context; and Cope and Kalantzis (2000) see design as a transformative process, drawing on all available semiotic resources to create new combinations. I have argued elsewhere (Maun and Myhill 2005; Myhill 2010) that the design metaphor is a helpful one for constructing both a theory and a pedagogy for children’s decision-making in writing, but that the existing theories give insufficient attention to the linguistic and metalinguistic aspects of text production. At the lexical, syntactical and textual level, writers are making multiple linguistic choices: some of these choices are implicit choices, shaped by previous social and literate experiences, but others are explicit, brought into consciousness and deliberated over.  The construct of writing as design views linguistic choice as a discriminating selection process from a repertoire of possibilities, creating shades of meaning which align the unfolding text with the writer’s design intentions. Drawing on a study funded by the ESRC, and informed by textual and interview data, this paper will illustrate the designing decisions of writers aged 12-13.

Sue Walsh (CIRCL, Reading) “Irony and Maturity”

This paper is part of my continuing thinking about irony and its relation  to childhood and/or children’s literature. In previous work I’ve discussed children’s literature criticism’s difficulties with irony, notwithstanding its presence in many classic children’s texts. Critical problems with irony  in children’s literature have to do, it seems, with an underlying sense that language for the child must mean what it says and must not dissemble. This feeds back into traditional long-standing concerns about the morality of fiction and anxieties about fiction as lies, concerns which take on an added urgency when they are about fiction for children. The problem with irony is that it disrupts any notion that language has a direct and unmediated relationship to the “real” world and suggests that there’s no natural or inevitable relationship after all between the word and what it refers to. Irony requires a notion of language that allows that it does not necessarily mean what it says. The child and its language on the other hand, are understood as meaning what they say in all “innocence”. Children are simply not supposed to “get” irony, and in many critical accounts the understanding of irony becomes an index of maturity. According to Kenneth Burke for instance, “we cannot use language maturely until we are spontaneously at home in irony”. The paper that follows will continue my questioning of what is at stake in critical conceptions of both irony and the child.

Roundtable: Creative Transgressions: Taboos and Horrors

Chair: Philip Hensher (Creative Writing, Exeter)

This panel’s principal focus will be on ideas of censorship and transgression in relation to questions of literary value. Are our ideas on the value of children’s literature predominantly informed by a sense that it is morally, socially, or intellectually  “improving?” Is it still valued primarily for it usefulness as a vehicle for learning? What about pleasure? What, historically or currently, constitutes pernicious literature for children, what topics have been considered taboo, and why?

– George Rousseau (History, Oxford) “Taboos and Horrors in the Juvenile World: The Longitudinal View”

– Lily Chang (History, Oxford) “Constructing Taboos and Horrors Among Chinese Children in the Twentieth Century”

– Cristina Gouvea (History, Oxford) “The Taboos and Horrors in Brazilian Literature for Children, 1910-2010”

Panel 2. Pattern Recognition: Cognition and Creativity

Respondent: Pamela Knights (English, Durham)

Robert Mack (English, Exeter) “Evolutionary Studies, Literature, and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments

Ever since Mark Turner, in 1996 study The Literary Mind, decided to use one of the opening stories contained in the Arabian Nights as a paradigmatic example of the acts of “narrative imagining” – of the “fundamental cognitive activity: story” – which he argued to be representative of the literary capacities that are indispensible to human cognition and to the projective and (in his account) parabolic activities of the human mind, generally, the Nights has been a work that has often if only fleetingly engaged the attention of subsequent scholars in the emerging fields of (and one can still take one’s own pick here) Literary Darwinism, Evolutionary Literary Theory, Bio-cultural Reading, or – to use a term more recently advanced by Brian Boyd, “evocriticism”.  The Nights, of course, is a vast collection of tales of all kinds, and one can only touch on its possible relevance to the concerns of this particular panel. I will be taking my own immediate cue in this presentation, however, from some of the insights contained in the pages of Boyd’s own work (On the Origins of Story [2009]), by concentrating on the most general appeal of Scheherazade’s tales to particular aspects relating to several of the problem-solving levels rooted in our evolutionary imperatives:  on curiosity, on the attention demanded by storytellers, and – two pressures or influences less emphasized in Boyd’s readings – on the primal human issues of ignorance and anxiety. It is only fitting that in a festival devoted to stories and to storytelling, we pay at least some attention to the most successful narrator of many of the oldest tales known to mankind: Scheherazade.

Maria Nikolajeva (Education, Cambridge) “How to read a children’s book and why: Preamble to literary cognitivism and children’s literature”

The paper is a summary of a work-in-progress that takes as its point of departure literary cognitivism, a relatively recent direction of inquiry pursuing the question of whether works of literature can convey knowledge, and if so, how this happens. It has been argued that the epistemic value of literature is not its inherent feature; that although literature can provide knowledge, reveal truth, and so on, this is not its primary purpose. Children’s literature has throughout history been employed as an educational vehicle, yet its actual mechanism of providing knowledge has not been properly discussed. Does this mechanism work differently in literature specifically addressed to an audience that purportedly has a different cognitive capacity than the sender?  The paper will consider several aspects of the epistemic value of children’s literature, including knowledge of the world, knowledge of society, knowledge of other people, knowledge of self, aesthetic knowledge, ethical knowledge and metaphysical knowledge.

Anthony Wilson (Education, Exeter) Teachers’ conceptualisations of the creative and the critical in poetry composition

The status of poetry both in the writing curriculum and in wider popular culture is best described as mixed (Wilson, 2009). In spite of a strong post-war tradition of enthusiasm for the teaching of poetry writing, it is currently felt to be marginalised in the writing curriculum (Dymoke, 2007; Ofsted, 2007). This paper reports on the beliefs attitudes and values revealed by a small scale questionnaire survey of teachers of poetry writing. It finds that teachers of poetry writing adhere to a personal growth model of English teaching. Furthermore, there is evidence that teachers believe that intuition is central to the composing process of poetry. However, there is also evidence in their responses of the need for explicit teaching of design processes in poetry composition. It would appear that teachers reconcile the apparent conflict in their adherence to a model of teaching poetry writing which requires both inspiration and shaping by using a very subtle blend of different kinds of scaffolding in the classroom. On this evidence teachers’ knowledge about pedagogy goes beyond what they know as readers to help children become writers of poetry. I argue that teachers demonstrate flexible thinking in their poetry writing pedagogy and this is evidence both of the wariness they feel towards the performative culture they work within and a celebration of practice which remains outside of formal scrutiny.

Panel 3: Crossovers: Reading/Writing Childhood

Respondent: Maeve Pearson (English, Exeter)

Neil Cocks (CIRCL, Reading) “Reading and the Imagination”

This talk will frame some contemporary debates within education theory by reading constructions of the imagination in the classic pedagogical text,  The Reading For Real Handbook. Through this I will begin to explore what I  see as the difficulties it faces in attempting to transcend what are  understood to be the intrusive, standardising tendencies of both ‘Managerial’ and ‘humanistic’ accounts of learning. The text understands educational value to be something that exists outside of pedagogical  discourse in what I take to be a Romantic realm of instinctual ‘feeling’  and imagination, or. on one occasion, a factive world of self evidence. The  Reading for Real Handbook is concerned with making the case for what it  terms ‘real book’ reading in the teaching of literacy. In this it sets  itself against what it understands to be the obsession with assessment in  current educational provision. It can reject assessment, however, only because it claims to know the student in an immediate and absolute fashion. It is because the student can be apparently so perfectly assessed through intuition and observation that assessment can be abandoned. In this, the text attempts to situate the act of reading in a place free from adult , institutional authority, yet one that is still available to adult, institutional assessment, although of an apparently immediate self evident variety.

Matthew O Grenby (English, Newcastle) “Before Crossover?”

The ‘crossover’ fiction phenomenon – texts produced for children but read also (or instead) by adults – is hardly new. In the later nineteenth century, there was much unembarrassed adult reading of children’s books – for instance the lachrymose street-Arab story Froggy’s Little Brother (1875), devoured by many adults immediately it appeared, and the adventure tale King Solomon’s Mines (1885), dedicated to ‘all the big and little boys who read it’. It was precisely this preponderance of crossover fiction that irked cultural commentators of the period, causing them to attempt new definitions of the novel. Henry James argued that, to be taken seriously the novel had to distance itself from writing for children. George Moore urged serious novelists (like himself) to ‘give up at once and forever asking that most silly of all silly questions “Can my daughter of eighteen read this book?”’ As the critic Felicity Hughes succinctly put it in 1978, there was a widespread understanding by the turn of the twentieth century that ‘the serious novel is one that children cannot read’. Critics of children’s literature might well invert this question and ask if the true children’s book is one that adults cannot read? This paper will ask this question, not of today’s texts, but of those produced at the very beginning of a recognisable children’s literature, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This was when children’s literature was first becoming established as a distinct division of print culture. What we might expect is that its first publishers and authors would have been anxious to demarcate books for children from books for adults. After all, in attempting to establish the validity of their new commodity, it would have surely been in their interests to present arguments similar, but opposite, to James’ and Moore’s, that to be taken seriously the children’s novel had to distance itself from writing for adults. But it may be that the boundary was, even then, not so rigidly delimited, or even that an audience of adults was always deliberately courted. This is what this paper will investigate, asking whether a tendency towards ‘crossover’ was intrinsic to children’s literature, or a phenomenon only of particular periods: the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ‘Golden Age’, or the ‘first years of the new millennium’ that have been, as Rachel Falconer puts it, ‘miraculous ones for crossover literature’? Answering these questions will be important for the study of the origins of children’s literature. Thinking about the intended audience of the first modern children’s books may also provide some useful perspective on the ways in which children’s literature has continued to be defined and demarcated.

Janet Evans (Education, Liverpool Hope) “Reading The Visual: Creative and Aesthetic Responses To Picturebooks and Fine Art”

It has long been accepted that one can respond to fine art in a variety of different ways, however it is only in the last decade or so that picturebooks have been attracting the kind of recognition that they have long deserved as art forms to be considered and responded to both creatively and aesthetically. There is a growing body of research which is focusing on how we can respond creatively to the illustrations in picturebooks in addition to the picturebooks themselves as art objects. There is also a growing number of author illustrators that use famous works of art as an integral part of the storyline in their picturebooks. This paper describes how one such book, was initially used as the stimulus for some reader response work which quickly led onto more in-depth, detailed responses to fine art. It then goes on to share the oral, written and illustrative responses of some 9 and 10 year old children showing the creative and aesthetic links between picturebooks and fine art.

Sam North (Creative Writing, Exeter) “Multiple Failures”

My paper will explore the working processes that I have been going through in the writing of a first work for children. It’s a story about multiple failures which will lead, I hope to success. Those failures have been largely to do with story. They are not about what separates us from children in our delight in stories, but about what unites us. Children, I have come to believe, are more sophisticated consumers of story than adults, in that they are purists. They are less forgiving of the efforts of the author, which the adult reader will empathise with. The adult reader will contribute to the insertion of the story in their own minds – they are willing. The child is willing, but receives story only when it works. In this sense, the child is a connoisseur. The child’s palate, when it comes to story, is unadulterated, and the purity of story, its simplicity, is what holds them – as well as us. I am interested in the notion of simplicity, as a form of purity – and how difficult this makes the writing of a children’s story, whereas one might think the opposite – that simplicity should make the author’s life easier. The issue of sentence structure, vocabulary, etc, is of minor concern.


Presenter Biographies

Lily Chang, Faculty of History, University of Oxford

Graduate student

A former Clarendon Scholar (2007-2008) and recipient of the 2008 postgraduate prize from the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past for her study on representations of Chinese wartime children, Lily Chang is reading for a doctorate in History, as part of the Leverhulme China’s War with Japan programme, directed by Professor Rana Mitter. Her research links two major areas of historical inquiry: crime and delinquency with war and social change. By comparing how two competing regimes (Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government and the Japanese-collaborationist regime under Wang Jingwei) handled the issue of crime and social deviance, her study examines how the outbreak of China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) served as a catalyst to an increase in criminal activities involving juveniles. Her research draws upon over 400 previously closed legal case records of offenses involving juveniles from five different Chinese archives, and demonstrates how new legal and social norms were shaped in wartime Chinese society, through the redefining of children and ideas of childhood. Her research interests include juvenile delinquency in the twentieth century, comparative children’s literature, social and kinship relations in East Asia, women’s and gender history in East Asia, and war and memory.

Neil Cocks, CIRCL, University of Reading


Neil Cocks is a lecturer in the Department of English and American Literature, University of Reading. He has written widely on notions of Childhood within C19th Literature, Art Theory, and the literature of education. His monograph, Student-Centred: Education, Freedom and the Idea of Audience, was published in 2009.

Janet Evans, Faculty of Education, Liverpool Hope University

Senior Lecturer in Education and Literacy and Educational Consultant

Janet Evans is a Senior Lecturer in Education at Liverpool Hope University and Literacy and Educational Consultant.  Formerly an Early Years and primary school teacher, she has written nine books on language, literacy and maths education.  Her latest edited book, Talking Beyond the Page: Reading and Responding to Picturebooks Routledge (2009) focuses on a reader response approach to responding orally to picturebooks. Her ongoing research interests include an exploration of strange, ambiguous and unconventional picturebooks, critical literacy and interactive writing linked to popular culture.  Janet has taught in India, Nigeria, Australia, America, Canada, Chile and Spain and was awarded two research scholarships which enabled her to work and study in the USA. In 2010 Janet was awarded a research scholarship to study at the International Youth Library in Munich.  She has presented papers at many international conferences and is currently doing part time freelance consultancy. Her website is:

FourPlay: Victoria de Rijke & Howard Hollands, School of Arts and Education, Middlesex University

Dr. Howard Hollands is Principal Lecturer in Art & Design and Victoria de Rijke is Reader in Arts & Education at Middlesex University, London. Victoria is also co-Chief Editor of the Children’s Literature in Education Journal.  Howard and Victoria work across the disciplines of visual arts and literature, and joint publications include “Naked Pigs: Motifs & Motives in Max Velthuijs’s Picturebooks”, in Studies in Children¹s Literature 1500-2000, Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, (2004) and “Looking for the

Thing That is Not Lost” in Changing Concepts of Childhood and Children’s Literature, ed Vanessa Joosen and Katrien Vloeberghs (CSP 2006). At present they are working on an Art and Play Reader,   with Tate Publishing, for 2012.

Maria Cristina Soares de Gouvea. History of Education, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil/Department of History, University of Oxford

Associate Professor/Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Maria de Goueva is currently on a postdoctoral research sabbatical at the Centre of the History of Childhood at Oxford University. She is an Associate Professor in Education at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, and was a member of Brazilian Committee: National Program of Schools libraries Ministry of Education in 2009. She has  published widely in education, childhood studies and human development. Recent publications include Desenvolvimento humano: história, conceitos e polêmicas (Human Development: History, Concepts and Controversies) Cortez (2010), with Carlos Henrique Gerkin; “Dossiê: Infância na história” (“Dossiê: Childhood in History”). Educação em Revista (26: 1. 2010. 76- 123), with Heliosa Pimenta;  Manuel(org) Estudos da infância: educação e práticas sociais (Childhood Studies: Education and Social Practices),  Vozes (2008), with Manual Sarmento, amongst others.

 Matthew O Grenby, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, University of Newcastle

Reader in Children’s Literature

Matthew Grenby works on eighteenth-century cultural history, particularly the culture of childhood. He is the author of ‘The Anti- Jacobin Novel’ and ‘Children’s Literature’, and editor of ‘The Cambridge Companion to Children’s Literature’ and ‘Popular Children’s Literature in Britain’. His new book, ‘The Child Reader 1700-1840’ will be published by Cambridge University Press in February.

Robert Mack, Department of English, University of Exeter

Senior Lecturer

Dr. Robert L. Mack was born in Manhattan, and was educated at Columbia, Oxford, and Princeton Universities. For over ten years now a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Exeter, he previously taught at Princeton and Vanderbilt Universities, in the United States. He has edited a number of works for inclusion in Oxford University Press’s World’s Classics series, including, most pertinently, a selection of Oriental Tales (1992) and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments (1995), as well as Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield (2006) and Frances Burney’s The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties (the latter co-edited with Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor in 1991). His biography Thomas Gray: A Life was published by Yale University Press in 2000. Subsequently, The Genius of Parody: Imitation and Originality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century English Literature was published in 2007 (Palgrave-Macmillan), and his The Wonderful and Surprising History of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The Life and Times of an Urban Legend appeared in 2008 (Continuum). Also in 2008 he contributed a chapter to Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum’s commemorative collection of essays (published by Oxford University Press), The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West. More recently, he provided the program notes for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s critically acclaimed production of Dominic Cooke’s dramatic adaptation Arabian Nights, which was performed at Stratford-Upon-Avon in December 2009-January 2010; he is also one of the two Lead Academic Commentators to be featured in Channel Four’s up-coming television program, entitled simply The Arabian Nights (hosted by Richard E. Grant, and scheduled to air some time in the holiday season, 2010). He is currently working on a book-length study, the tentative title of which is The Arabian Nights and the Traditions of Children’s Literature in English, while also looking ahead towards a project that will explore the European roots of the cultural and narrative legacy of the major animated films of Walt Disney: Walt Disney: Text and Adaptation.

Debra Myhill, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

Acting Dean of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies and Leader of the English with Media PGCE

Debra Myhill is Acting Dean of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies and leader of the PGCE English with Media programme.  Her research is centred in the field of language and literacy – particularly the use of talk for learning,  and writing.  Her research in writing has examined children’s composing processes, their metalinguistic awareness,  and how grammar can inform the teaching of writing.  Her research adopts a deliberately inter-disciplinary framework. drawing on linguistic, psychological and socio-cultural perspectives to theorise my work and she is Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Writing.

Maria Nikolajeva, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Professor of Education

Maria Nikolajeva is a Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge, previously a Professor of comparative literature at Stockholm University, Sweden, where she taught children’s literature and critical theory for twenty five years. She is the author and editor of numerous books, the most recent Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers (2009). In 2005 she received the International Grimm Award for lifetime achievement in children’s literature scholarship. Her research interests include narrative theory and visual literacy. Her current research is on cognitive theory and children’s literature.

Sam North, Creative Writing, University of Exeter


Sam North is a novelist and screenwriter, who has been teaching creative writing at Exeter since 2007. His works include The Old Country (2007), The Velvet Rooms (2006) and  the Unnumbered (2004). He is currently developing a PhD titled ‘Five Analogies’ to be published by OUP which explores the imaginative landscape of narrative from a practitioner’s point of view, focusing on his current novel What The Children Saw.

George Rousseau, Faculty of History, University of Oxford

Co-Director of the Oxford University Centre for the History of Childhood

George Rousseau has been Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at UCLA and Regius Professor of English at King’s College Aberdeen in Scotland. He is currently a member of the Faculty of Modern History at Oxford University and Co-Director of the Oxford University Centre for the History of Childhood. He was the holder of a Leverhulme Trust Award 1999-2001. Among his recent books are a trilogy of works about the European enlightenment published in 1991: Perilous Enlightenment: Pre- and Post-Modern Discourses–Sexual, Historical; Enlightenment Crossings: Pre- and Post-Modern Discourses—Anthropological; Enlightenment Borders: Pre- and Post-Modern Discourses–Medical, Scientific; Hysteria Beyond Freud (written with Elaine Showalter, Sander Gilman, Roy Porter, and Helen King, 1993), Gout – The Patrician Malady: Culture and Medicine(written with Roy Porter, 1998; paperback 2000); Framing and Imagining Disease in Cultural History (2003), Nervous Acts: Essays on Literature, Culture and Sensibility (2004), and a biography of Marguerite Yourcenar (2004) and Children and Sexuality: The Greeks to the Great War (2007). His primary interest lies in the interface of literature and medicine, for which his work has been acclaimed, most recently in the award of a three-year Leverhulme Trust Fellowship in 1999-2001 for research on the cultural understanding of disease conditions cholera, nostalgia, and tuberculosis. His often-cited 1981 article, “Literature and Medicine: The State of the Field” Isis, 72 (September, 1981): 406 – 424, is often said to have charted a new academic field, and his article on configurations of same-sex arrangements in the Enlightenment won the James L. Clifford Prize for the best article of the year in the USA.

Sue Walsh, CIRCL, University of Reading


Sue Walsh teaches on the Children’s Literature MA in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Reading and is a member of CIRCL (the Graduate Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media ). Her publications in the field include her monograph Kipling’s Children’s Literature: Language, Identity and Constructions of Childhood (Ashgate, 2010) and chapters and articles on constructions of the animal and the child, irony and childhood, the Gothic and the child, and children’s literature and biography. Her primary research foci revolve around her continued interest in the question of irony in relation to ideas about the child and its language, and the relation of children to animals as elaborated in criticism and literature.

Anthony Wilson, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

Primary PGCE Programme Director

Anthony Wilson is a lecturer, poet and writing tutor. He is Programme Director of the Primary PGCE Programme and subject leader for Primary English at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. His research is in the field of poetry in education. He has recently co-authored an ESRC Seminar Series bid titled “Poetry Matters.” His current projects include working with Bath Festivals’ The Write Team, a collaborative project about writers in schools.  His books include The Poetry Book for Primary Schools (1998) and Creativity in Primary Education (2009). His books of poetry are How Far From Here is Home? (Stride, 1996), Nowhere Better Than This (Worple Press, 2002) and Full Stretch: Poems 1996-2006 (Worple Press, 2006). His new book, Riddance, is forthcoming in 2011.

Respondent Biographies

Cariad Astles, Drama, University of Exeter

Associate Teaching Fellow

Cariad Astles has worked in the UK and Spain as a professional puppeteer and has taught at a range of other Higher Education and training institutions. Her teaching and research explore aspects of collective identity within popular and contemporary puppetry and festival performance; the training of the puppeteer, particularly in relationship to the approach to animation; Catalan visual theatre and Latin American popular performance. Recent publications include articles on “Barcelona: Earth, Puppets and Embodiment’ in Counsell, Colin & Roberta Mock (eds), Performance, Embodiment and Cultural Memory, CUP, November 2009; ‘Dancing Giants and Bigheads: Processions and Puppets in Catalonia’ in Dorothy Max Prior (ed) Animated Advances, Puppet Centre, April 2009 ; ‘Alternative Puppet Bodies’ in UNIMA Brazil (ed),  Moin Moin, August 2008 and ‘Puppet Theatre and Child Rights,’ in Miles, Malcolm & Nicola Kirkham (eds) Cultures and Settlements, Bristol: Intellect, 2003.

Philip Hensher, Creative Writing, University of Exeter

Associate Professor

Philip Hensher is a novelist, critic and journalist, who has been teaching creative writing at Exeter since 2005. His novels include The Mulberry Empire Flamingo / Harper Perennial (2002) and The Northern Clemency, Harper Collins 4th Estate (2008), shortlisted for the Man- Booker prize. His latest novel, King of The Badgers is due out on 11 March 2011. (Harper Collins 4th Estate 2010).

Pamela Knight, English, University of Durham.

Senior Lecturer

Pamela Knights’s research centres on interconnections between ideas of place/space/regionality and identity, and cultural and fictional forms, in both American and British literature. Her publications include work on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American writers, particularly William Faulkner, Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin; R. D. Blackmore, children’s literature, and ‘performance’. Having begun her career teaching in the secondary sector, and, having spent some time at Durham as a joint lecturer in English and Education, she has long been engaged with developing subject-centred pedagogy. She is a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, gaining the award as Durham University’s first winner in 2002 (one of only 20 lecturers in the country that year); and in recent years, has been active in various HEFCE-funded teaching-quality enhancement projects, including leading the English Subject Centre ‘Duologue’ project on e-learning in English Studies, and the NTFS ‘TRAC’ project, based on experimental approaches to Children’s Fiction, carried out with groups of English students at Durham. She was the Durham co-ordinator for the ‘MEDAL’ consortium, a 3-year FDTL5 project for developing innovative teaching approaches in interdisciplinary Childhood Studies <>; and acted as Secretary and board member of IRSCL (International Research Society in Children’s Literature) from 2006-09. Until recently, she was also Executive Editor of the new journal, International Research in Children’s Literature (Edinburgh University Press), serving on the founding editorial team with Professor John Stephens (Macquarie University, Australia) and Dr Vanessa Joosen (University of Antwerp, Belgium). Research resources she has developed include ‘Signs of Childhood (2005) and ‘More Signs of Childhood’ (2007) (online), amongst others; and she is currently working on a book, Reading Ballet and Performance Narratives for Children: Critical Moves, for the new Palgrave Macmillan series, Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature.

Maeve Pearson, English, University of Exeter


Maeve Pearson’s has been a lecturer in American literature since 2007. Her research focuses on representations and ideas of childhood in literature and philosophy, with a particular focus on the child of the American nineteenth-century, ideas of aesthetics and childhood, and the child study movement. She has published articles on childhood in relation to the utopian socialist Charles Fourier (Radical Philosophy, 115. 2002), the philosopher-critic Walter Benjamin (New Formations 54. 2004) and Henry James (The Henry James Review 2:28 2007). She is currently working on a book on Henry James and the Work of Childhood.

Other Participant

Christine Faunch, Library, University of Exeter

Acting Head of Archives and Special Collection

Kicoula Ross, English, University Exeter

PhD Candidate

Helen Taylor (Exeter, Arts and Culture)

Professor of English & University Arts and Culture Development Fellow

Storytelling Event: Victorian Fairy Tales

So you think you know your fairy tales. Can you remember what The Green Man said to Little Red Riding Hood?  Or how she played with the little blue bird? Did you know of the Native American “Little Burnt Face,” seeking the starstrung bow of her Ojibwa lover?

Goeff Fox and Peter Hamilton, from the Crediton TaleTellers, will be  presenting a storytelling performance charting the fluctuating history of some seemingly familiar fairy tales from the Victorian era.

The event coincides with the a selection of images from fairy tales, moral tales and other early children’s fiction currently on display at the Research Commons and Exeter Central Library as part of the eXtreme imagination children’s literature festival. The Research Commons display includes archival material from Exeter’s Chris Brooks and St Luke’s collections, as well as some items generously loaned from the private collection of Geoff Fox.

The Devon Collection of Children’s Books:

Chris Brooks’ Collection,41663,en.html


1 Comment

  1. December 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    […] Workshop: The Child’s Plaything: Literature, Creativity and Childhood […]

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