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IRSCL Award Winners


Die Bilderfalle: Kanada in der deutschsprachigen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur: Produktion und Rezeption
Martina Seifert
Augsburg: Wißner Verlag, 2016.

Die Bilderfalle: Kanada in der deutschsprachigen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur: Produktion und Rezeption is the most theoretical sophisticated, methodologically rigorous and extensive application of imagology to children's literature and to translation studies so far, based on a vast research corpus of some 1,000 primary works in all (500 German children's books about Canada, and 500 translated works).

The book consists of two parts. The first reconstructs the German "image type" of Canada, as it emerges from Romantic idealizations of nature, travel accounts, and imported adventure literature. The author convincingly demonstrates that this image type (Canada is spacious, timeless/without history, wild, without people, a place where real men can prove their mettle in direct contest with unspoilt nature) remains surprisingly constant all throughout the 20th century, in spite of the major political upheavals Germany went through in the course of this troubled century.

The second part enquires into the impact of this national imaginary on the selection for and German translation of Canadian children's books. The author ties in with the latest insights in translation theory, which move beyond the criterion of faithfulness to the source text, and understand translation as a form of productive reception which is at least as much focused on the target language and culture as on the source language and culture. Finally, it also links gender studies to imagology given the fact that the German image-type of Canada is so relentlessly masculine. One reviewer commented that Martina Seifert's book sets a standard, not just for research into children's literature, but for international research into the field.


Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde
Sara Pankenier Weld
Evanston: Northwestern UP, 2014.

Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde offers a new approach to the Russian avant-garde. It argues that central writers, artists, and theorists of the avant-garde self-consciously used an infantile aesthetic, as inspired by children's art, language, perspective, and logic, to accomplish the artistic renewal they were seeking in literature, theory, and art. It treats the influence of children's drawings on the Neo-Primitivist art of Mikhail Larionov, the role of children's language in the Cubo-Futurist poetics of Aleksei Kruchenykh, the role of the naive perspective in the Formalist theory of Viktor Shklovsky, and the place of children's logic and lore in Daniil Kharms's absurdist writings for children and adults.

This monograph deals with an important dimension of twentieth century avant-gardism/modernism at large, i.e. their late-romantic idealization of children and childhood as major sources of inspiration for innovative art by adults.

Pankenier clearly shows how avant-garde research at large may profit from the close scrutiny of infantilist aesthetic concepts. As such, it generates some real synergies with research into children's literature and the Europen avant-garde, in which several other IRSCL members are involved, such as Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer. The author addresses both modernist and avant-garde theories and theories of childhood and children's literature, puncturing essentialist myths of childhood. Importantly, this monograph builds bridges between the fields of childhood studies, children's literature studies, and inquiry into modernism and the avant-garde, which may be of use to us all.


Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights
Robin Bernstein
New York: New York University Press, 2011.

Racial Innocence is a brilliant, well-written, exciting, and moving account of how slavery and racial discrimination have impacted children and childhood media in the USA for a long and decisive period. The text deals with how seemingly "innocent" areas such as play raise racial issues in performative ways, and in doing so, offers an up-to-date theoretical framing that is thought-provoking on many levels. This book has potential to influence research in children's literature for a long time to come.


Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing
Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman
Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2010

This book comprises an account of the history of children’s English-language publishing in Canada, concentrating on illustrated works and picture books, from the beginnings of Canadian children’s literature to 2005.

The authors have plotted the evolution of Canadian publishing for children against the cultural and political shifts which have characterised Canadian history. They focus in particular on how illustrated books and picture books have negotiated Canadian debates over nationhood and national identities, with particular reference to Indigenous peoples and texts, and ethnocultural diversity. The distinctive contribution Edwards and Saltman make is that this is not merely a literary history, but Picturing Canada investigates the networks of publishing, librarianship, education, retail, reviewing and research which attend the production and reception of Canadian books for children.


Historien om bórnelitteratur: dansk bórnelitteratur gennem 400 år / The History of Children's Literature: 400 Years of Danish Children's Literature
Torben Weinreich
Copenhagen: Branner & Korch, 2006

One of the necessary and most relevant activities in a relatively young field of research is historiography. Analysing the historical emergence and development of one's object of study in a convincing and nuanced way requires mature distancing, thorough research, rich knowledge and a convincing theoretical framework to compose a history, a story of the development of children's literature in a particular area. Torben Weinreich's The History of Children's Literature: 400 Years of Danish Children's Literature is just such an ambitious and successful enterprise, offering valuable insights and models of thinking for other areas, fields, or geographical locations.


The Poetics of Childhood
Roni Natov
New York / London: Routledge, 2003

The Poetics of Childhood is a study of the sensibility of childhood and the way writers have attempted to find a language in their work for children and for a mature audience with which to recreate this sensibility. Closely and intelligently reading an eclectic range of works from classics of children's literature (Burnett's The Secret Garden, Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden ) as well as modern titles (Rowling's Harry Potter), the poetry of Wordsworth and Blake, Nabokov's Lolita, Lessing's The Fifth Child or Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Natov examines the construction of innocence, of the pastoral and the anti-pastoral, not shirking from the dark images that contribute to the poetics of childhood.

Reviews of The Poetics of Childhood by IRSCL scholars from the Netherlands, the USA, Finland, the UK, and Italy can be read in the reviews section.


Reading Race: Aboriginality in Australian Children's Literature
Clare Bradford
Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2001

Reading Race demonstrates how Australian children's texts of all genres (fiction, non-fiction, picture books, school texts, films) represent Aborigines and Aboriginality to Australian children. It examines the ideologies of race which inform Australian children's texts, the cultural shifts that are visible in their representations of Aboriginality, and the tensions and uncertainties which they disclose. In its deployment of postcolonial theory and its attention to Aboriginal textuality, Reading Race affords models of theorized analysis of texts. It deals with questions of gender, colonialism and the sacred; issues of cultural appropriation, hybridity and reconciliation as they manifest in Australian texts.


Kinderliterarische Komparatistik [Comparative Children's Literature]
Emer O'Sullivan
Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2000

Emer O'Sullivan's pioneering study examines the relevance of basic questions and concepts of comparative literature for children's literature studies and develops them further. What emerges is a map of the relevant areas:

  • general theory of children's literature;
  • contact and transfer studies (including translation and reception);
  • comparative poetics of children's literature (including thematology);
  • intertextuality studies;
  • image studies;
  • comparative genre studies;
  • comparative historiography of children's literature; and
  • comparative history of children's literature studies.

The translation of children's literature is a special focus of the book. O'Sullivan draws on a communicative model of translation which links the theoretical fields of narratology and translation studies.

A final section addresses the concepts of world literature for children and children classics and analyses the globalisation of children's literature today.


Norsk Barnelitteraturhistorie [The History of Norwegian Children's Literature]
Tone Birkeland, Gunvor Risa and Karen Beate Vold
Oslo: Det norske samlaget, 1997


The Nimble Reader: Literary Theory and Children's Literature
Rod McGillis
New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996


When Toys Come Alive: Narratives of Animation, Metamorphosis and Development
Lois Rostow Kuznets
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994

When Toys Come Alive> focuses on the role of toy characters (dolls, animals, mechanical objects) in older classics written for children or adults (e.g., The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, The Velveteen Rabbit) through modern texts like The Mouse and His Child, popular cartoons, and science fiction. Kuznets uses a variety of intertextual critical approaches to show how toy characters act out deep human needs, desires, and fears, reflect socio-economic hierarchies, and raise existential issues of power and creativity.