MA students’ report on the workshop Ecocritical Perspectives on Nordic Children’s and Young Adult Literature

25th and 26th October 2018 at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), Campus Kronstad.

This report summarizes a two-day programme of presentations and discussions at the workshop Ecocritical Perspectives on Nordic Children’s and Young Adult Literature, which took place on the 25th to 26th October 2018 at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), Campus Kronstad, Bergen.

There were approximately 40 participants in attendance, including the presenters. The workshop was arranged by the research group Nature in Children’s Literature and Culture (NaChiLitCul) in collaboration with the Ecocritical Network for Scandinavian Studies (ENSCAN), and, as noted in the call for papers, the workshop “is intended as a platform for the sharing and development of ecocritical approaches specifically directed towards Nordic children’s and young adult literature”. The workshop aims to contribute to mapping the distinctive features of Nordic texts, while opening up for comparative approaches (ENSCAN, u.å.). 

The workshop was opened by Nina Goga and Lykke Guanio-Uluru on behalf of the NaChiLitCul research group, followed by an introduction to ENSCAN by Reinhard Hennig, highlighting ENSCAN as a network for international collaboration on ecocritical and environmental perspectives on Nordic literature and culture. Further information on ENSCAN and their work is available on their webpage https://enscan.net/ and on Facebook.

During the workshop, presentations were given on a variety of books and topics. One goal for this workshop was to explore what is typical or distinctive about the Nordic children’s and young adult’s (YA) literature, and the Nordic way of relating to nature. During this workshop, it became evident that certain types of landscape are recurrent in the Nordic children’s and YA literature presented. The snowy landscape was repeatedly featured, as exemplified by the arctic snow and ice landscapes in Jean Davies Okimoto’s Winston of Churchill- one bear’s battle against global warming (2007), or the landscapes of Svalbard and Sápmi in the books presented. Rivers and freshwater springs were other recurring elements in the landscapes, as for example seen in Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water (2014), Ragnar Aalbu’s Anda i Ødemarka (2012) and Mats Söderlund’s Hotet (2018). Yet another recurring landscape was the forest landscape, as for example seen in Lene Ask’s Du (2016) or Eva Lindström’s I skogen (2008). In this context, several of the presenters discussed representations of the Sami people, a native population in the Nordic countries, and of their relationship to nature. During the workshop, several relationships to nature were described; for example nature as a place of maturing and testing your strength, nature as a harmonious place and nature as a force with its own agenda. Many of the books studied featured girls in relation to the wilderness and animals. Animals and interspecies relationships were also recurring themes in the workshop. There were presentations on horses as a ‘companion species’; on anthropomorphic animals; and on the representation of such animals as polar bears, ducks and insects. There was a clear understanding that Nordic landscapes have something unique to offer.

This workshop has revealed some of the many opportunities for exploring, mapping and discussing the representations of nature in Nordic texts and their distinct features. Ranging from the depiction of urban landscapes, to representations of food in Nordic literature of the Anthropocene, and the Aesthetics of waste in Swedish Children’s Literature, the workshop included a variety of approaches to the diverse corpus of Nordic children’s and YA literature. Several of the presenters had studied the same books; The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson, by Selma Lagerlöf (1906), and Anna- en fabel om klodens klima, by Jostein Gaarder (2013) were featured in more than one presentation, but with distinct and interesting approaches. A workshop like this demonstrates the diversity not only of the Nordic literature that is studied, but also between the analytical approaches taken. Research perspectives can be further challenged, therefore, and complemented by discussions of the same material from different angles. It became evident in this workshop that the opportunities are many when approaching Nordic literature. A point raised in the discussions was that newer books may tend to encourage an ecocritical reading. However, books written before ecocriticism emerged as a field of study may also benefit from this perspective. This workshop inspires to further research, not only on the latest Nordic literature, but on the literature of the past.

Needless to say, the topics discussed by the speakers at the conference ranged widely, yet they all shared a common underlying concern for the status of the local, and global, environmental dialogue in ecocritical and environmental approaches to Nordic literature. This workshop has shown us some of the many opportunities that lie in exploring, mapping out and discussing Nordic Children’s literature from an ecocritical point of view. It became apparent that there are interesting developments occurring in the field of Nordic literature for children and young adults.

Literature:

The Ecocritical Network for Scandinavian Studies- ENSCAN (u.å). Workshop on Ecocritical Perspectives on Nordic Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Downloaded from:

https://enscan.net/workshops/

 

13.11.2018

Kristine Aga Haugom, Tora Eide Hodneland, Ole Henrik Lund & Line Alvheim Åse

MA students in Children’s Literature at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

 

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