- Collapsing the Disciplines:Children’s Literature, Children’s Culture, and Andrew O’Malley’s The Making of the Modern Child
The self-winding reciprocal motor functions well in Hoban's The Mouse and His Child, but in a universe governed by entropy it inevitably winds down periodically: as the Frog comments, "I don't suppose anyone is ever completely self-winding. That's what friends are for" (241). As always, Hoban speaks both literally and metaphorically: self-winding is about more than just turning the physical key; it is also about the mental stimulus provided by the heterogeneous community of rodents and reptiles and clockwork toys established at the dollhouse turned travelers' inn, the Last Visible Dog, who engage in study and the exchange of ideas, whether through the practical discussion of applied technology offered by Manny Rat, or the high theoretical discourse of C. Serpentina, the philosopher-scholar snapping turtle. The virtual community established in the pages of Pedagogy performs a similar function, winding us up on a given issue, offering both practical advice and theoretical musings, challenging us to join in the conversation, the reciprocal exchange of ideas.
Too often, though, we find ourselves exchanging ideas concerning teaching only with those who for the most part share our convictions, avoiding the tension of contrary viewpoints that construct the demands of our profession differently. Preparing my segment of the departmental review, however, demonstrated once more the truth of William Blake's lines from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "Without contraries is no progression" (1971 : pl. 3). Only by engaging with the differing understandings of the connection between undergraduate teaching and research expressed by my colleagues was I able to search for a better way to articulate my own sense of the relationship that most of us will struggle with throughout our professional lives. Negotiating the demands of our undergraduate teaching and our research will remain an ongoing challenge, but one made energizing by engaging in conversations—practical, pragmatic, imaginative, theoretical—concerning how we as scholars strive to attain that fine balance.
Julia Šarić holds a master’s degree in English from Queen’s University and is currently completing a doctorate in curriculum studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She specializes in children’s literature and social justice and cultural studies in education, and her doctoral research explores the potential for cross-disciplinary research in children’s literature, using a theme analysis on witches in contemporary young adult novels as a case study. Her work has also appeared in the journal Canadian Children’s Literature.
1. For example, in Children’s Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child, Karin Lesnik-Oberstein (1994: 102) renames “book people” as “pluralists” and “child people” as “educationalists.” These terms are meant to “relocate the principal source of disagreement between the two groups as being not primarily their concentration on the ‘child’ or on the book, but a difference of emphasis on the importance of the type of lesson literature is believed to teach.”
2. As Beverly Lyon (2003: 183) details in her recent study Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children’s Literature in America, all those who study and teach children’s literature, the “book people” as well as the “child people,” still share the common burden of working in a field whose position “is somewhat precarious in the academy.”
3. The subject of children’s studies was the topic of a special edition of The Lion and the Unicorn (2001). Karen S. Coats’s article “Keepin’ It Plural: Children’s Studies in the Academy” (2001) and Kenneth Kidd’s “Children’s Culture, Children’s Studies, and the Ethnographic Imaginary” (2002) also address theoretical and practical questions associated with interdisciplinary approaches to children’s studies, particularly with regards to the study of children’s literature. Under the direction of Professor Gertrud Lenzer, the first program in children’s studies was launched in 1991 at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Similar interdisciplinary initiatives in children’s studies have since been launched at a number of universities, including the Rutgers University Center for Children and Childhood...