Landscapes

Leader: Professor Aslaug Nyrnes
Participants: PhD student Ahmed Khateeb, Professor Ture Schwebs, Director Kristin Ørjasæter

Books for children display a wide variety of landscapes, including landscape formations central in understanding climate change, such as the wilderness, the woods, the polar area, islands, rural areas and different kinds of cityscapes (Caroll 2011).

The aims are to investigate the way different kinds of landscape construction and landscape formation shape and create the concept of nature in children’s and YA literature. A core hypothesis is that the figure of the pastoral as nature celebrating functions as a key topos of children’s and YA literature; a landscape where other problematizing landscapes of unrest, battle and conflict are to be confronted and understood.

The aims will be achieved through re-readings and discussions of key cultural texts from the pastoral tradition (Virgil, Rousseau), in combination with close readings and comparative textual analyses of children’s and YA texts. The concept of the pastoral is discussed in ecocritical studies (Garrard 2012, Gifford 2014), pastoralism being “a species of cultural equipment that Western thought has for more than two millennia been unable to do without” (Buell, in Gifford 2014: 17). However, the pastoral, including the relationship between humans and the environment, animals, and plants through techne, is undiscussed as a starting point shaping the idea of the landscape in children’s and YA literature.

The research includes studies of what we consider three central types of landscape formations in newer children’s and YA literature: the idyllic landscape, landscapes of uncertainty and transformed landscapes.

The idyllic landscape we will enfold through investigating canonized literary texts, asking if and how the idyllic landscape is a side scene or shapes the identity of the protagonist in an ecocentric manner.

Landscapes of uncertainty will be studied through children’s literature and YA utopian / dystopian literature, where the question will be whether or how these landscapes presuppose or create and shape concepts of nature that are anti-pastoral or even post-pastoral.

Transformed landscapes are texts with a theme on transformation from pastoral to rural and urban landscapes, thus pinpointing the relationship between landscape and time. The studies will discuss how children’s and YA texts might create awareness of township, the urban environment and rural reality.