- Children's Literature Research in Denmark
Until the 1990s, Danish research had strong ties with German and, to some extent, Swedish research when the history of literature, education, or a particular focus on the essential nature of children's literature was involved. The latter rested on the research work into adaptation done by Theodor Brüggemann, Malte Dahrendorf and Göte Klingberg. Klaus Doderer also played a prominent role here. So if you wanted to study children's literature, you would have to be able to read German texts. The link is not that surprising for at least two reasons:
1) Historically speaking, Danish children's literature had always been closely connected with German children's literature. Until roughly 1900, approximately eighty percent of all translations of children's literature into Danish came from Germany (today it is ten percent, while translations from English make up more than sixty percent).
2) Humanities departments at Danish universities had close connections with German research and, to some extent, French research. When the Germans changed focus, paradigms, and scientific methods, we did in Denmark, too. This was true for disciplines such as literature, history, and religion.
To this group belongs the Swedish scholar Göte Klingberg, whose significance cannot be underestimated. He was inspirational and, in many ways, set new standards for children's literature research and his often systematic, but also positivist, approach to material had an impact on the study of children's literature in Denmark.
There has, however, been a shift since the beginning of the 1990s. The still somewhat restricted research that was going on in children's literature is now more concerned with English-language research, a tendency that is also observable outside the world of children's literature. Since the English-speaking world has been inspired by French researchers to develop, for example, deconstruction, this returns via the USA to Europe and, thus, to Denmark. The same is true for reader-oriented theories, developed in Europe by Wolfgang Iser [End Page 255] and Umberto Eco, and which, especially in the USA, often emerge as more radical reader response theories, as with Stanley Fish and Richard Rorty. These tendencies have been strengthened in Denmark by the rise in popularity of the new reader-oriented theories in educational research. Foregrounding the reader corresponds with foregrounding the pupil, which is regarded as more democratic. For this reason, the theories mentioned above have been given priority as attempts are made to create more democratic schooling. It is important for Danish research into children's literature to keep its strong link with educational research since research often has to justify its existence by showing that schools and libraries can benefit from it.
The move towards English was strengthened towards the end of the 1990s at the same time the Centre for Children's Literature came into existence, but there is no real connection here. There are many reasons for this shift. One is that English has increasingly become the language of children's literature research. English is spoken at large conferences—at the International Research Society for Children's Literature, for instance—and the best-known journals appear in English. It is quite characteristic that when the Nordic Network for Children's Literature Research was created in 2001, English was the chosen common language. English was chosen so that researchers can be invited from other countries and because more and more of the essential theoretical literature about children's literature is published in English.
This turnabout has been met in Denmark and Norway with some skepticism. The danger is that we have three large networks for children's literature using three different languages—English, German and French—and we isolate ourselves from each other to such an extent that we do not benefit from each other's research. Whilst on this subject, it is worth mentioning that this year a French network was set up, based in the Charles Perrault Institut in Paris, for researchers with Romance languages in Europe, South America and large parts of Africa. It is also open to other academics provided that they speak French. This is a good move if it strengthens diversity, but...