The Seeker Within: emotions, cognition, and future careers in children's literature

The Child and the Book conference at the University of Cambridge (Day 2)

(part II.)

As a graduate-led conference, the Child and the Book offered its participants the unique opportunity to engage in a panel discussion concerning the development of a career in children's literature. All members of the panel were eager to answer queries, provide invaluable advice, and encourage students to pursue a career in children's literature and relative academic (and non-academic) fields. Some of the opportunities discussed included careers in the publishing industry, opportunities to teach courses at Open University level, as well as careers in reading promotion organisations and non-governmental cultural associations (such as IBBY). 

The panel members also spoke of their professional endeavors and of the challenges faced in their pursuits. The importance of work experience and volunteering was also underlined, and the publication dilemma was demystified: should we aim to prioritize the quantity of work published over the quality of the academic journal in which aspire to publish? The general consensus of the panel members on the subject of academic publications, was that scholars should primarily ensure the publication of their work (publications in highly esteemed academic journals are an added bonus!).

Karen Murris on the moral
dimension of anger
The afternoon sessions culminated in two optional practical workshops: Will Buckingham led some very talented participants as they explored philosophical questions through the art of storytelling. In the second creative workshop, Karen Murris encouraged a dialogic exploration of the affective concepts in Oram and Kitamura's Angry Arthur. As Murris observes in Is Arthur's Anger Reasonable? meanings cannot be located solely within the picturebook, but rather "meanings are constructed in the spaces among the words, the images, and the reader" (Murris, 2012, p. 135). Indeed, during the workshop, Angry Arthur opened up a philosophical space for the exploration of various theories of emotions.

Through an initial discussion and inquiry into the eliciting conditions of the titular character's emotional state, Murris's (2012, p. 136) striking observation that the zones of overlap between literature and philosophy lie within that space between words and pictures was fully realised.

The Saturday presentations were deeply thought-provoking and engaging in equal measure. Following the practical workshops, all participants were invited to celebrate the completion of another successful conference day at the spellbinding Homerton college great hall, under the watchful gaze of the past college principals (or the gaze of their portraits!) and by the light of hundreds of candles.

Works cited:

Cherkasova, E. (2004). Philosophy as Sideshadowing: The Philosophical, the Literary, and the Fantastical. In H. Carel & D. Gamez, (Eds.). What Philosophy Is. (pp. 200-211). London: Continuum.

Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2001). Does Beauty Build Adapted Minds? Toward an Evolutionary
Theory of Aesthetics, Fiction and the Arts. SubStance, 30(1&2), 6-27.

Murris, K. (2012). Is Arthur's Anger Reasonable? In P. R. Costello (Ed.). Philosophy in Children's Literature, (pp. 135-152). Lanham, MA: Lexington Books.

Oram, H. & Kitamura, S. (2008). Angry Arthur. London: Andersen Press.

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