An Introduction to 2022’s CLUGG Members

Here is a glimpse into the research conducted in the Children’s Literature Unit, Newcastle University and CLUGG members this year.

Helen King: I’m writing up my PhD on the work and archive of Beverley Naidoo. She is a UK-based South African writer of novels and picture books, and her novels especially often have a political or social mission, narrating stories of apartheid, colonialism, and displacement. I’m interested in her construction of political childhoods, and her vision of the political potential of childhood reading. My research explores her published work, her collaborative creative process with children, reader responses to her novels, and her dialogues with her readers, which I use to theorise about the agency of children as both producers and consumers of children’s culture. I’m also interested in postcolonial and critical race approaches to children’s literature, trauma theory, and participatory research with children.

Karen Sands-O’Connor: I am the British Academy Global Professor for Children’s Literature, which is a fancy way of saying I got a grant to come here because I had some unique knowledge that could usefully contribute to Newcastle University, Seven Stories, and the nation in general. My research for the last 20 years has concentrated on the history of Black British children’s literature, mostly but not exclusively Afro-Caribbean children’s literature; and how the authors of this literature have written against, challenged, and contrasted with the images and stereotypes created during the British Empire. I’ve moved into policy work, trying to embed Black British children’s literature into book and literacy organisations across the country, including Seven Stories, the Youth Libraries Group, and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

Lucy Pearson: I am a Senior Lecturer in Children’s Literature, arriving at Newcastle University in 2007, first as a PhD student and then as a member of staff. Throughout that time, I’ve worked closely with Seven Stories, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in their amazing archival resources throughout my career. This has been really important to my research: I am a book historian and am interested in how books are published, marketed and received. I’m currently working (very slowly) on a history of the Carnegie Award, considering how it has shaped ideas about quality children’s literature in the UK.

Devika Mehra: I am a postdoctoral research associate working on the archives of Grace Nichols, John Agard, Grace Hallworth, and Valerie Bloom held at Seven Stories. The second part of my project deals with analysis of representation and diversity in Carnegie-Kate Greenaway medals and the shadowing process. What I love most about my work at Newcastle University is the opportunity for collaborative knowledge exchange work with external partners such as Seven Stories and the Youth Libraries Group. My research looks at the constructions of marginalised childhood/s and the child-signifier in contemporary global and South Asian children’s literature, archival study, contemporary Black British and minority ethnic literature for children, Western and South Asian media and film cultures for children.

Jo Yuanyuan Zhou: I am a PhD student here in Newcastle University for one year as part of my PhD programme. After 7 years of teaching in higher education in China, I am interested in Chinese children’s literature and childhood study and its relation to the world children’s literature, especially in the UK, America and East Asia. I am working on the comparative study of translated Chinese children’s books and mainstream publications in the UK in terms of family stories/genre. Also, another work that I have planned to do is to research how children’s agency is developed in China and the UK social contexts, and how it is presented in literary books and movies after the 1970s.

Megan Adams: I am an MLitt student currently writing my dissertation on how blindness and visual impairment is presented in children’s literature for which I was awarded an IRSCL research grant. I am interested in all aspects of literary disability studies and hope to continue my research into a PhD at some point. 

Stephanie Lyttle: I am a part-time PhD student in Creative Writing, researching bisexuality and magic in recent YA Fantasy novels. The creative component of my thesis is an original YA fantasy novel. The first books I ever read were Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo and Pat Hutchins’ Don’t Forget the Bacon (and I still recommend them both!).

Emily Murphy: I am a Lecturer in Children’s Literature at Newcastle University (UK), with research interests in international children’s literature, childhood studies, and global citizenship education. My monograph, Growing Up with America: Youth, Myth, and National Identity, 1945 to Present (University of Georgia Press, 2020), was the winner of the 2021 International Research Society for Children’s Literature Book Award. The book explores the role of the figure of the adolescent in challenging national myths about U.S. identity, and looks at both canonical American novels and young adult fiction, including Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and M.T. Anderson’s Feed, to support its argument. I have published essays in The Lion and the Unicorn, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, and Jeunesse, and my work also appears in Prizing in Children’s Literature (ed. Kenneth Kidd and Joseph Thomas) and Connecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media (ed. Vanessa Joosen). Currently, I am working on a new book project entitled The Anarchy of Children’s Archives: Children’s Literature and Global Citizenship Education in the American Century, for which I have received multiple travel grants to conduct research in some of the top special collections in children’s literature.

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