We share our research with other scholars and interested readers by means of journals and specialised magazines: Under ‘Academic publications’, you can find each publication and a link to the article in question. You’ll also be able to find transcripts of the interviews Vanessa Joosen conducted with the authors here soon.
Determining author or reader
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): 355-365.
A style for every age
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, Geybels, Lindsey & Vanessa Joosen. ‘A style for every age : a stylometric inquiry into crosswriters for children, adolescents and adults‘.
Language and literature (2022): 1-23.
You have to set the story you know aside
As with other twenty-first-century rewritings of fairytales, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron complicates the classic ‘Cinderella’ fairytale narrative popularized by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm for new audiences, queering and race-bending the tale in its decidedly feminist revision of the story. However, as we argue here, the novel also provides an interesting intervention in the construction of age as related to gender for its female protagonists. Drawing on Sylvia Henneberg’s examination of ageist stereotypes in fairytale classics and Susan Pickard’s construction of the figure of the hag, we explore the dialogic between the fairytale revision, traditional fairytale age ideology and the intersection of age and gender in this reinvention of the classic narrative. By focusing on constructions of age, particularly senescence, we demonstrate how complex constructions of older characters might aid in overall depictions of intergenerational relationships, and how these intergenerational relationships in turn reflect historical and cultural impetuses of retelling fairytale narratives.
Anjirbag, Michelle Anya & Joosen, Vanessa. “You Have to Set the Story You Know Aside”: constructions of youth, adulthood and senescence in Cinderella Is Dead.
Humanities 11.1 (2022): 25.
Child or adult, what does it matter?
Views on age not only determine the stories in children’s books, but also have an impact on the field of children’s literature. A lot of attention is paid to the dynamics between children and adults. While you could consider children and adults as two different age groups, you could also see them as part of a continuum made up of an array of age phases that gradually merge into each other and that show many similarities. The ‘difference model’, ‘deficit model’, and ‘kinship model’ are approaches that are used to research such topics. Bart Moeyaert has always criticised the distinction between children’s literature and adult literature. Throughout his writing career he has been through different age stages while expressing varying age norms. As he got older, he put more emphasis on the kinship between children and adults. In his novels, he depicts adults who missed out on a lot because they didn’t spend enough time with their children, but he also evokes role models who show what is to be gained by the kinship between young and old.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Van kind naar kinship : de constructie van leeftijd in de literatuuropvattingen van Bart Moeyaert in de loop van zijn schrijverschap’.
Spiegel der Letteren 63: 1-2 (2021), p. 89-112.
From diary to debut
Duet met valse noten (1983) started as a diary when Bart Moeyaert was twelve years old. When it was discovered by an older brother, Moeyaert transformed it into a novel about first love. Young authors who use experiences and desires prompted by real life as material for stories are often considered experts on such matters. Given the fact that they are young themselves, they are said to attract readers in a special way. Texts by young authors are often adjusted and marketed by adults working in the field. For some researchers, such adult interferences impede the authenticity of the young author’s voice. When examining the writing process of Duet met valse noten, it appears that quite a few people had a say in adjustments to the manuscript, including young people. Apparently, Moeyaert himself was not happy with some revisions, although they did influence his development as a poetic writer.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Writing when Young: Bart Moeyaert as A Young Adult Author’.
European Journal of Life Writing 10 (2021): BB65-BB83.
But, grandma, why did you (not) grow stronger?
Many fairy tale adaptations play with the storylines and the values and norms of traditional fairy tales. Some of these fairy tales have stood at the centre of literary studies, such as Wolf (1990) by Gillian Cross, an award-winning rewriting of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Feminist perspectives have strongly influenced the fairy-tale rewritings of the past decades, but the intersection of gender with other identity markers deserves more attention. Gender is often interwoven with images regarding age. At first, Cross depicts the grandmother as a cunning, determined woman. But her story also includes stereotypical images of the ‘wise old mentor’ and the ‘incapable little old woman’, for example. Cross thereby leaves the intergenerational collaboration aside that does feature at the end of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as it was written by the Brothers Grimm.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Rewriting the Grandmother’s Story. Old Age in “Little Red Riding Hood” and Gillian Cross’ Wolf‘.
Fabula 62.1-2 (2021): 172-184.
In the media
What’s age got to do with it?
Age is a complex phenomenon. Think about the following questions for a moment: How old are you? And how old do you feel? How old do other people think you are? And how do you and others know these things? Some of those insights may hearken back to the books you read as a young person, as they played a part in shaping your identity. So how is age constructed in children’s books? In this podcast, Emma-Louise Silva (UAntwerpen) introduces you to researchers who (while admitting they don’t feel their age at all!) are trying to find out what children’s books reveal about age. To do so, the team is researching 800 children’s books from the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands. Whether you are a 70-year-old teenage dirtbag, or a 7-year-old sprinter who thinks that old people are slowpokes, this podcast is for you!
This podcast was recorded, edited, and produced by Emma-Louise Silva. Coaching by Tinne Claes and Joris Van Damme (SciComm Academy). Mixing by Joris Van Damme.
Silva, Emma-Louise. ‘What’s age got to do with it?‘.