In recent decades, age studies has started to emerge as a new approach to study children’s literature. This book is co-authored by several members of the CAFYR team and builds on that scholarship but also significantly extends it by exploring age in various aspects of children’s literature: the age of the author, the characters, the writing style, the intended readership and the real reader. Moreover, the authors explore what different theories and methods can be used to study age in children’s literature, and what their affordances and limits are. The analyses combine age studies with life writing studies, cognitive narratology, digital humanities, comparative literary studies, reader-response research and media studies. To ensure coherence, the book offers an in-depth exploration of the oeuvre of a single author, David Almond. The aesthetic and thematic richness of Almond’s works has been widely recognised. This book adds to the understanding of his oeuvre by offering a multi-faceted analysis of age. In addition to discussing the film adaptation of his best-known novel Skellig, this book also offers analyses of works that have received less attention, such as Counting Stars, Clay and Bone Music. Readers will also get a fuller understanding of Almond as a crosswriter of literature for children, adolescents and adults.
Joosen, Vanessa, Michelle Anya Anjirbag, Leander Duthoy, Lindsey Geybels, Frauke Pauwels & Emma-Louise Silva. ‘Age in David Almond’s Oeuvre: A Multi-Method to Studying Age and the Life Course in Children’s Literature’.
Dreams can function in children’s books as a means to connect young characters and older figures in the story. In this article, Vanessa Joosen presents three methods to study intergenerational encounters in and through dreams in a selection of contemporary Dutch children’s books. She does this by means of a digital analysis of a corpus of 81 books to shows that the older the characters are, the less they are described as dreaming. Next, a close reading of intergenerational dreams lays bare, amongst others, the associations of dreaming with healing and death. Finally, a reader response study reveals that young children already understand some dream mechanisms and that older readers sometimes may draw on Freudian theory to interpret dreams, but that some also resist that.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Encounters of a Dreamy Kind: Dreams as Spaces for Intergenerational Play and Healing in Dutch Children’s Literature’.
Traum und Träumen in Kinder- und Jugendmedien, edited by Iris Schäfer, Brill, 2023, pp. 35–49.
Children’s literature is traditionally seen as a carrier of various ideologies as well as an important factor in children’s socialisation, for example in terms of the representation of age. A children’s book that portrays older characters as frail people with old-fashioned habits will influence the young reader’s perception of older people in their own environment, perhaps resulting in them viewing the older generation with a negative attitude. Vice versa, when children often come into contact with stories in which older characters walk their own paths full of zest for life, they are likely to view older people differently in real life. In this article, Lindsey Geybels argues that not only children’s literature, but also fiction for young adults and adults, has an impact on the perception of age, specifically older adulthood, among its readers. In a corpus of 41 Dutch books written for different ages, the representation of older men and women is studied using the verbs, grammatical possessions and adjectives associated with characters of this age.
Geybels, Lindsey. ‘Shuffling Softly, Sighing Deeply: A Digital Inquiry into Representations of Older Men and Women in Literature for Different Ages’.
Social Sciences, vol. 12, no. 3, 2023, p. 112.
Due to the nature of literary texts as being composed of words rather than numbers, they are not an obvious choice to serve as data for statistical analyses. However, with the help of computer programs, words can be converted to numbers and specific parts of a text can be examined on a large scale. Textual elements such as sentence length, word length and lexical diversity have been associated with various concept by scholars in different fields. Stylometry is one of these fields and focusses on the writing style of an individual author and more specifically tracing markers of their style to attribute authorship to anonymous texts. On the other hand, in children’s literature studies, these markers or textual elements are most often associated with the complexity of a text and the intended age of its readers. In this paper, data from the entire CAFYR corpus (little under 700 English and Dutch books written for different ages) is subjected to statistical evaluation to investigate whether the textual elements studied are better qualified to detect the age of the intended reader of a text or the identity or age of its author.
Geybels, Lindsey. ‘Determining Author or Reader: A Statistical Analysis of Textual Features in Children’s and Adult Literature’.
Proceedings of the Computational Humanities Research Conference, 2022, pp. 355–365.
The oeuvres of ‘crosswriters’ or ‘dual audience authors’ who write for both children and adults form the perfect touchstones for research on the similarities and differences between children’s literature and literature for adults. By means of stylometry, a digital research method that aids in studying style, the works of ten Dutch and English language dual audience authors were examined. Are there similarities to be found across the oeuvres of these authors? And are there differences within one author’s books that are targeted at different age groups? To research these questions, the target audience and the publication date were factors that were taken into account. By including interviews with the authors, the researchers also considered the writers’ views on style and readers. The main conclusion drawn from the case studies is that the style of the texts usually correlates more strongly with the age of the intended reader than with the time period in which the texts were written. In other words, books for young readers share more similarities than those for adult readers.
Haverals, Wouter, Lindsey Geybels & Vanessa Joosen. ‘A Style for Every Age: A Stylometric Inquiry into Crosswriters for Children, Adolescents and Adults’.
Language and Literature, vol. 31, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1–23.
These days, children often devour the entire Harry Potter series during their years at primary school. At the time of each publication, the character grew along with the readers: each volume saw Harry growing up. Based on a digital analysis of the books, it appears that the style of the books and the themes covered in the books changed along the way too. Sentences became longer and more complex. Slowly but surely, themes turned from food, school, and animals, to spiritual topics and death.
Haverals, Wouter & Lindsey Geybels. ‘Putting the Sorting Hat on J.K. Rowling’s Reader: A Digital Inquiry into the Age of the Implied Readership of the Harry Potter Series’.
Journal of Cultural Analytics, vol. 5, 2021, pp. 1–30.