Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Power of Memory in Children's Literature: A Follow-Up

Research on memory has become increasingly relevant in the childlitosphere, heightened by the MLA conference theme for 2015, Negotiating Sites of Memory. There will surely be fascinating panels at MLA, including the ChLA sponsored panel, Geography and Memory in Children's and YA Literature, and Sites of Memory in Children's Literature (check out the CFP's here).

In lieu of the upswing of attention to memory in children's literature, I thought I'd mention that the roundtable discussion The Art of Memory (which I blogged about in October) is now available to listen to online. Dr. Alison Waller (Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism, 2011), the first speaker in this roundtable session, discusses her research on the ways that adults renegotiate their relationships with books they read as children. She notes that nostalgia and love are reoccurring concepts when people discuss the books that made impacts on them as children, and she stresses that this loving relationship to remembered books is anything but straightforward.

While Waller is exploring the complexities of memory, nostalgia, and love, there are other scholars who are interested in children's literature and trauma, or traumatic memory. I'm hoping that the MLA theme will contribute to or build upon some fascinating work along this vein, such as Kenneth Kidd's 2005 article in Children's Literature Association Quarterly titled "'A' is for Auschwitz: Psychoanalysis, Trauma Theory, and the 'Children's Literature of Atrocity.'" Kidd writes, "Many people believe that the Holocaust fundamentally changed the way we think about memory and narrative, a well as about human nature" and notes that exposure to trauma through children's literature is "now deemed appropriate and even necessary" (120).

To anyone invested in looking more deeply into the geographical element of the MLA theme, I recommend checking out some blog posts written by my colleague, Alya, who is interested in concepts of space and geography in children's literature. Alya has blogged more specifically about cartography, writing about the map in The Death of Yorik Mortwell by Stephen Messer that "without knowing the novel itself, you could examine this map and cultivate your own story. Maps have a history after all; the cemeteries would certainly indicate as much here." Alya's observation is that in having a "history" a map may prompt its reader to form a new memory- somewhat of an oxymoron, but perhaps this speaks to the complex reader/authorial relationship?

In any case, I'm looking forward to the MLA 2015 schedule; I'm sure it will announce some amazing work being done in children's literature!

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