In this article, Leander Duthoy discusses how child and adult readers of children’s literature use the concepts of innocence and wisdom as age norms to reflect both on their own age and the age of fictional characters. He gathered data through semi-structured interviews and focus-group discussions with readers aged nine to seventy-five. In these conversations, Leander and his readers reflected on two Dutch language children’s books: Iep! (1996), written by Joke van Leeuwen, and Voor altijd samen, amen(1999), written by Guus Kuijer. Younger readers demonstrated an awareness of adult discourse surrounding childhood innocence, which some adopted without criticism, while others admitted to ‘performing’ innocence to escape adult ire. Furthermore, these same young readers also used innocence to ‘age’ young characters. For late adolescent and early adult readers, both young and old characters were sometimes deemed innocent. In contrast, older readers emphasised their own wisdom and reflected on the age of characters through that lens. Wisdom therefore emerged as a key age norm older readers used not only to praise older characters, but also to give positive meaning to their own experience of older adulthood. Notably, some characters that were perceived as especially wise by older readers were thought of as naïve and innocent by younger readers. Thus, the complexity of the readers’ responses challenged straightforward age-bound generalisations of wisdom and innocence.
Duthoy, Leander. ‘“I Became Much Wiser over Time”: Readers’ Use of Innocence and Wisdom as Age Norms in Responses to Children’s Literature’.
International Research in Children’s Literature, vol. 15, no. 3, 2022, pp. 279–293.
This essay demonstrates the fruitfulness of applying a lens based on 4E-inspired cognitive narratology to David Almond’s My Name is Mina (2010) in order to illuminate how the so-called cognitive-affective imbalance between children and adults needs reassessing, especially when it comes to memory. Merging recent developments in 4E – or embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive – approaches to cognition as proposed in philosophy of mind, with concepts such as fictional minds and storyworlds as discussed in cognitive narratology, I engage in close readings of My Name is Mina that reveal kinship between the adult author and his child character. Adults and children alike are “memorial fabulators” (Chambers), and 4E approaches to the cognitive study of literature can enrich the field of children’s literature studies and its considerations of adult authors’ mind depictions of child characters.
Silva, Emma-Louise. ‘Cognitive Narratology and the 4Es: Memorial Fabulation in David Almond’s My Name is Mina’.
Age, Culture, Humanities, vol. 6, 2022, pp. 1–29.
Age determines the form and content of children’s books in many ways. People havexed ideas about what is suitable for a particular age and what is not, and digital tools can help to map and ask questions about such age norms on a large scale. For this project, the computer ‘read’ 32 Dutch-language children’s books published between 1975 and 2018, and it appears that explicit comments are often made about age in children’s books. Not only do we pay attention to childhood in the project, other life stages are explored as well. It seems that children’s books guard age norms the most, but these comments are often coloured by conflicts, humour, and irony.
Joosen Vanessa. ‘Te kinderachtig voor de kinderen? Leeftijdsnormen in jeugdliteratuur digitaal onderzocht’.
Vooys: tijdschrift voor letteren, vol. 37, no.3, 2019, pp. 1–9.