CAFYR at the VAL Symposium 2022

Climate change can be seen as presenting us with the largest collective action problem that humanity has ever faced, one that has both intra- and inter-generational dimensions.

This issue, brought forward by philosopher Dale Jamieson (2014, 61), forms the starting point for this year’s VAL symposium, which takes place at UGent on Friday 25 November. The annual symposium of the Flemish Association for General and Comparative Literature (VAL) aims to provide a platform to individual researchers and research groups from Flanders and Brussels. This edition draws attention the intergenerational dialogue on climate crisis and how it is represented in literature, an excellent opportunity for the CAFYR team to share their knowledge on intergenerational relations in children’s literature. The programme includes a keynote by our project leader, Vanessa Joosen, entitled “The Merits of Big and Small: Children’s Literature, Intergenerational Relationships and Climate Change”. During this lecture, Vanessa explores hopeful depictions of what is usually presented as a depressing situation.

What is nice about the VAL Symposium is that time is also set aside each year for ongoing research outside the conference’s theme. For example, our team was invited to organise a roundtable discussion together with colleagues from the University of Antwerp and UGent on methodology in children’s literature research. PhD student Leander Duthoy will discuss his experiences with reader response theory and elaborate on how he uses this interview method to gain more insight into how different generations of readers interpret age in a book. Lindsey Geybels, in her PhD, works with digital methods to investigate the age of characters from different angles. She will introduce some of these methods. Two colleagues from the children’s literature team will also join; Maureen Hosay is working with multimodality in her PhD and during the roundtable will discuss some of the challenges she faced in the early stages of her project. Andrea Davidson, who will be defending her PhD on 9 January 2023, uses age-focussed genetic criticism in her research. During the symposium, she will elaborate on this combination of age studies and literary genetic criticism. The discussion, which also includes UGent’s Elly McCausland, will be moderated by CAFYR post-doc Emma-Louise Silva and Marco Caracciolo (UGent).

Also on the programme is an English-speaking and a Dutch-speaking panel on the climate crisis and a closing keynote by Sarah Falcus (University of Huddersfield).

Source: Jamieson, Dale. Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed – and What It Means for Our Future. Oxford University Press, 2014.