CFP – Growing Scientists! Children’s Literature and the Sciences

Call for Papers
Growing Scientists! Children’s Literature and the Sciences
University of Antwerp, Belgium
7 March 2018

Starting with Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658), children’s literature has shown a particular interest in the sciences: not only in non-fiction, but also in genres like science fiction and adventure stories, and in science-oriented characters and scripts – think of the mad scientist or the Frankenstein plot. Moreover, the study of children’s books also draws on the sciences. A growing body of cross-disciplinary research builds on findings from cognitive studies in particular to examine the narrative construction of storyworlds and the possible impact of children’s literature on young readers.

This one-day conference, hosted by the University of Antwerp, seeks to examine the representation of science in children’s literature, as well as innovative theoretical approaches that explore children’s literature from cross-disciplinary perspectives, such as cognitive studies, evolutionary criticism, geographies of children, and so forth. As such, it wants to contribute to the discussion about the “gap,” whether real or supposed, between the arts and the sciences, that has been on scholars’ agenda ever since C.P. Snow published Two Cultures in 1959.

Recent social developments make this reflection particularly urgent. The past decade has witnessed a rise in governmental and educational support for STEM literacy (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), and some critics argue that this goes at the cost of the humanities. Some governmental agencies point out the difficulties in attracting a diverse group of students for STEM education, and develop campaigns to tackle the dominant image of the white, male, middle-class scientist that persists to date. Other political leaders have recently questioned the very role of science as the best way of understanding the world, and adapted their policies accordingly, provoking fear and outrage about the consequences for future generations.

Starting from the assumption that children’s literature contributes to the socialization of children, and reveals the values and attitudes adults want to pass on to the next generation, we explore how science is represented in children’s books. How are concepts of science constructed in children’s books? Do children’s books address science as fixed or dynamic? How are budding scientists characterised in terms of gender, race, class and age? How do scientists in children’s literature deal with risk and failure? What is the outcome of scientific activities in children’s literature? What ideas do children’s books offer to counter the idea that science and literature are mutually exclusive?

Confirmed keynote speakers are Maria Nikolajeva (University of Cambridge) and Daniel Feldman (Bar-Ilan University). Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers that explore aspects related to the conference theme. We particularly welcome submissions in the following areas:

Science in children’s literature

  • Scientific literature for children; children’s literature as science communication;
  • Agency and child characters as inventors or scientists;
  • Child geniuses and their scientific interests;
  • Science as related to citizenship in children’s books;
  • Scientist characters and diversity: gender, race, class, abilities;
  • Children’s non-fiction;
  • Children’s fiction as a source of images of science

Science and children’s literature

  • Children’s literature and STE(A)M education;
  • The place of children’s literature/ childhood studies within history of science;
  • Sciences informing research in children’s literature

Abstracts (300 words) and short biographies (50 words) should be sent to by 21 October 2017.

Conference location: University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.

For more information, contact Vanessa Joosen and Frauke Pauwels at