Congress Report: 19th Biennial Congress in Frankfurt, Germany

Children's Literature and Cultural Diversity in the Past and the Present

8-12 August 2009
Frankfurt, Germany

The 19th IRSCL Congress was held, fittingly, in the city and the institution where the Frankfurt Colloquium was held forty years ago in 1969, when participants from five countries elected a committee charged with the founding of an association which was to advocate for children's literature research and enable scholarly collaboration among its members. This event was the origin of IRSCL.

The Congress took place in the Goethe University, which houses the Institute for Children's Literature, and was convened by Hans-Heino Ewers. Around 400 delegates from 50 countries registered for this Congress, comprising scholars from around the world.

Goethe University

Goethe University, Frankfurt

IRSCL Delegates from Eastern Europe

Delegates from Eastern Europe

The Congress began with greetings from the President of Goethe University, Professor Müller-Esterl and from the Hessian Minister for Science and Art, Eva Kühne-Hörnemann. After a brief speech by Hans-Heino Ewers, the IRSCL President gave a commemorative speech, highlighting the origins of the Society in the divided Europe of 1969, honouring its past presidents and looking to the future of IRSCL as children's literature research develops into a prominent field of study at universities worldwide.

Professor Emeritus Klaus Doderer, one of the original participants in the Frankfurt Colloquium of 1969, posed the question whether the original objectives were still applicable in the present day. Finally, Sonja Müller, research associate of Goethe Universität spoke about the beginnings and the first projects of IRSCL.

The first keynote of the Congress was delivered by Professor Emeritus Heinz Rölleke, a renowned researcher of the Brothers Grimm. His topic was the cosmopolitan perspective of the Brothers Grimm as linguists and philologists and the global importance of their "Kinder- und Hausmärchen."" The first Congress day closed with a reception on the terrace of the Casino building.

2009 IRSCL Congress Opening Ceremony

Delegates at opening ceremony

2009 IRSCL Congress Opening Reception

Opening reception

Keynote lectures were delivered at the beginning of each of the Congress days: Zohar Shavit (Israel), "In the Backyard or the Foreground? Transfer Processes and the Creation of Child Culture"; John Stephens (Australia), "Representing Cultural Diversity in the Post-multicultural Era"; Anna Maria Machado (Brazil), "El mundo es plural"; and Maria Tatar (USA), "Cinematic Style and Empathetic Imagination in Anglo-American Children's Literature."

John Stephens

John Stephens

Anna Maria Machado

Anna Maria Machado

Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar

Following the keynotes, delegates attended their choice of 14 concurrent sessions. Altogether, around 280 papers were presented, on topics covering many aspects of children's literature and cultural diversity: migration, race, national literatures, multiculturalism, cultural difference in fantasy, film, comics, manga and multimedia, questions of translation, and many others. In addition, there were 10 panel sessions on various topics. Ten posters were presented on Monday and Tuesday of the Congress. The Congress languages were English, German, French and Spanish.

Cultures of World Nonsense Literature Panel

Panel, Cultures of World Nonsense Literature

IRCL Editorial Team

IRCL Editorial Team and Poster

Monday afternoon was reserved for excursions. One group went to Phantastische Bibliothek Wetzlar, the world's largest library on the genre of fantastic literature, and afterwards to Marburg. Another group followed in the footsteps of the Brothers Grimm in Hanau and Steinau an der Strasse. A third group explored Rheingau and Rheintal, including a boat tour. The fourth group pursued the topic of Frankfurt and Goethe, concluding with a visit to Goethe-Haus. All congress delegates received a ticket, allowing them free entry to all Frankfurt museums.

Heinrich Hoffman Museum

Heinrich Hoffman Museum

On Tuesday 11 August 2009, Mayor Petra Roth invited all participants to the Römer (medieval city hall of Frankfurt) to take part in a reception. Standing in for the Mayor, the Director of the Municipal Department of Cultural Affairs, Professor Felix Semmelroth, and members of the town council welcomed the delegates and provided pretzels and wine.

Hans-Heino Ewers

Hans-Heino at the Römer


In the Römer

Following the reception, more than 200 delegates joined the Congress Banquet which was organised on a boat on the river Main. At the Banquet the Society honoured Hans-Heino Ewers, Congress Chair, and Kimberley Reynolds, who leaves the Board after 10 years of service to IRSCL. The Vice-President, Mavis Reimer, announced that two members of IRSCL had been given Honor Book Awards for their monographs: Jean Perrot for Mondialisation et Littérature de Jeunesse [Globalization and Youth Literature], and Perry Nodelman for The Hidden Adult: Defining Children's Literature. Two longstanding members of IRSCL were named IRSCL Fellows in recognition of their work for IRSCL and for children's literature research. They are Riitta Kuivasmaki (Finland), and Sonja Svensson (Sweden). At the end of the evening, the Australian delegates, led by Kerry Mallan, put on a performance based (very loosely) on The Wizard of Oz, to welcome delegates to the 20th IRSCL Congress in Brisbane, Australia, 2011.

2009 IRSCL Congress Team

Congress Team at the Banquet

Maria Nikolejeva, Maria Tatar, and Jean Webb

Two Marias and Jean at the banquet

2009 IRSCL Delegates watching Australian presentation

Delegates watching Australian presentation