CFP – Horse Tales: Writing the Equine in Children’s Literature

Horse Tales: Writing the Equine in Children’s Literature
A one-day Conference at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education
21 May 2016, Faculty of Education, 184 Hills Road, CB2 8PH

‘As long as there are ponies in them…I don’t mind how many adventures I have. Somehow when you’ve got ponies you always have adventures.’ Ruby Ferguson, Jill and the Perfect Pony

‘I’d rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.’ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The body of the horse is fraught with competing anxieties. Associated with elitism on the one-hand and labour on the other, it is both a beast of burden and a symbolic site of freedom and natural power. The wide-ranging and often competing associations of the horse make it a vibrant imaginative symbol. It is perhaps telling that the most famous – although certainly not the earliest – animal autobiography is that narrated ‘from the original equine’ by Anna Sewell. The fantasy of ‘knowing the horse’, of being able to speak to it and for it, is powerfully evocative. That Black Beauty itself is as invested in issues of gender, class and social reform as it is in issues of animal husbandry speaks to the complex associations and cultural anxieties that surround narratives of the horse.

The purpose of this one-day conference is to explore how the horse is represented and deployed specifically in fiction aimed at young audiences. The pony story is much maligned as an idealistic and ephemeral genre that capitalizes on a childish love of horses that is meant to be outgrown and which is highly gendered (i.e. overwhelmingly associated with the needs and interests of young girls). We seek papers that attempt to unravel and rethink this critical stance by taking a broader view of the role and function of the horse in fiction for young readers. We encourage a wide range of approaches, topics and texts, which tackle the genre from new or distinct angles. These may include, but are not limited to: ecocriticism, zoocriticism, posthumanism, materialist criticism, embodiment theory, gender theory, the horse on film or in illustration, theorization of the horse by/through ‘horse-whisperers’, the horse in theatre, sport fiction.

300 word proposals for 20-minute papers should be submitted by no later than February 5, 2016. For more information, or to submit a proposal, please contact the conference organizers, Dr Georgie Horrell ( and Dr Zoe Jaques ( Invited speakers include much celebrated and prolific writer of equine fiction K.M Peyton (Flambards), Meg Rosoff (The Bride’s Farewell and How I Live Now), Jane Badger (Heroines on Horseback: The Pony Book in Children’s Fiction) and Susanna Forrest (If Wishes Were Horses: a Memoir of Equine Obsession).