CFP: Nature Writing

Biodiversity, climate change, and the relationships between humans and animals, plants, and landscapes have been central themes in children’s and young adult literature and media for some years. Stories about friendships between children and animals bring animal characteristics and agency to the fore; climate fiction for young adults modifies post-apocalyptic scenarios and fantastic novels engage with discourses about trees, roots and their networks; nonfiction (picture) books aim to raise awareness of the beauty and diversity of life in forests, in the depths of the sea and on the edges of cities, sometimes in aesthetically advanced ways – to mention just a few examples of the trend evident in all genres.. The theme, it must be noted, has long been profitable for publishers and one for which ever new publications are issued, albeit frequently devoid of any innovative emphasis in content.

A look at current and historical children’s and young adult literature nonetheless shows that the perspectives of neo-materialist theory, cultural animal and cultural plant studies as well as eco-critically oriented literature and media studies can produce new readings or re-readings. It could be postulated that children’s literature has demonstrated, since the Romantic era, a special connection between children and nonhuman creatures, with the latter characterised by unconventional agency. In this respect, it tells alternative stories of human–nature entanglements which are worth investigating.

Despite the conspicuous presence of nature themes, their analysis and reflection in children’s and young adult literature and media research remain a desideratum. Ecocritical approaches have so far been focused on the level of content and representation; beyond that, special attention has been paid to the development of didactic concepts in connection with a more sustainable lifestyle. But against the backdrop of New Materialism and the current animal turn and plant turn, a paradigm shift becomes apparent: New knowledge about the coexistence of humans and nonhuman beings is not simply represented in literature and media, but is produced descriptively and narratively or brought forth in visual, aural and audiovisual processes. “Writing nature” demands that we reflect upon hitherto circumventable anthropocentric positions of observation and narration. And while the discussion about climate change often remains abstract and oriented towards numbers, literature and media can find aesthetic means to model the changes in the natural environment and our shared world, to render the relations between humans and nonhuman beings narratable, and to make them tangibly experienceable. This kind of aesthetic work is of special interest here.

The sixth volume of the open-access, peer-reviewed Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung | GKJF (Yearbook of the German Children’s Literature Research Society) will address the contemporary as well as the historical dimensions of relationships to nature and landscape in children’s and young adult literature and media, especially the processes of writing nature.

Contributions should address the manifold implications of this complex topic from both theoretical and object-oriented perspectives in its various narrative and medial forms (novels, short prose, poetry, plays, picturebooks, nonfiction, comics, graphic novels, audio media, films, TV series, computer games).

Contributions may be in German or English. And while articles on German children’s literature and media are particularly welcome, the editors also welcome proposals on other cultural and linguistic areas.

Possible topics, aspects, approaches and focal points, each with reference to children’s and young adult literature or media, are:

  • Nature writing
  • Ecocritical approaches
  • Neomaterialist approaches
  • Narratology and knowledge
  • The interface between nature knowledge and esotericism
  • Utopia, dystopia
  • Fantasy and worldbuilding
  • Nature and horror / dark idylls / ecohorror / weird fiction
  • Human–nature relations and gender
  • Materiality

Beyond the focus theme, the Yearbook will publish up to three open contributions – in German or English – on questions of children’s and youth literature and media from a historical or a theoretical perspective; proposals for these contributions are also welcome.

Please send a proposal of no more than 300 words for a contribution on the focus theme or for an open contribution by 15 September 2021. The proposal should provide a short summary of the questions being addressed, establish theoretical positions and name the main literature to which the contribution will refer.

Notices of acceptance and invitations to submit a full manuscript will be sent out, together with a style sheet, by 15 October 2021.

The contribution itself should not exceed 40,000 characters (including spaces, footnotes and bibliography), and should be submitted to the editors as a Word document by 01 March 2022.

We look forward to receiving your proposal. Please send it to: jahrbuch@gkjf.de.  The Yearbook 2022 will be published online in December 2022.