New article: Material Green Entanglements

By Marnie Campagnaro & Nina Goga

The article reports on a course module designed to promote an ecocritical and new materialist approach to children’s literature and to support student teachers’ skills regarding sustainability. The course module was offered in autumn 2020 and was completed by 260 students of children’s literature with no previous scholarly knowledge about ecocriticism prior to the course. Building on basic ecocritical theory, posthuman perspectives on humans’ intra-actions with material entities, and the students’ previous experiences with didactic tools for developing sustainability competencies through literature, the course module aimed to critically contribute to the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in teacher education. The research material consists of fifty-three video assignments by groups consisting of three to four students. The material has been analysed in line with the methodological implications of video content analysis, focusing on three aesthetic and material entanglements – that is, entanglements with picturebooks, with peers, and with the environment.

Play, Learn, and Teach Outdoors—Network (PLaTO-Net): terminology, taxonomy, and ontology

Abstract

Background

A recent dialogue in the field of play, learn, and teach outdoors (referred to as “PLaTO” hereafter) demonstrated the need for developing harmonized and consensus-based terminology, taxonomy, and ontology for PLaTO. This is important as the field evolves and diversifies in its approaches, contents, and contexts over time and in different countries, cultures, and settings. Within this paper, we report the systematic and iterative processes undertaken to achieve this objective, which has built on the creation of the global PLaTO-Network (PLaTO-Net).

Methods

This project comprised of four major methodological phases. First, a systematic scoping review was conducted to identify common terms and definitions used pertaining to PLaTO. Second, based on the results of the scoping review, a draft set of key terms, taxonomy, and ontology were developed, and shared with PLaTO members, who provided feedback via four rounds of consultation. Third, PLaTO terminology, taxonomy, and ontology were then finalized based on the feedback received from 50 international PLaTO member participants who responded to ≥ 3 rounds of the consultation survey and dialogue. Finally, efforts to share and disseminate project outcomes were made through different online platforms.

Results

This paper presents the final definitions and taxonomy of 31 PLaTO terms along with the PLaTO-Net ontology model. The model incorporates other relevant concepts in recognition that all the aspects of the model are interrelated and interconnected. The final terminology, taxonomy, and ontology are intended to be applicable to, and relevant for, all people encompassing various identities (e.g., age, gender, culture, ethnicity, ability).

Conclusions

This project contributes to advancing PLaTO-based research and facilitating intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration, with the long-term goal of fostering and strengthening PLaTO’s synergistic linkages with healthy living, environmental stewardship, climate action, and planetary health agendas. Notably, PLaTO terminology, taxonomy and ontology will continue to evolve, and PLaTO-Net is committed to advancing and periodically updating harmonized knowledge and understanding in the vast and interrelated areas of PLaTO.

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Special issue on sustainability: Svenskämnets berättelser och berättelser i svenskämnet: ett temanummer om hållbarhet 

Detta är ForskULs andra temanummer, producerat tillsammans med två gästredaktörer.I Svenskämnets berättelser och berättelser i svenskämnet: ett temanummer om hållbarhet presenterar  Anna Lyngfelt och Katharina Dahlbäck fem artiklar som på olika sätt utgör exempel på det den brittiska professorn Kari Facer benämner ”närvarandets pedagogik”. Detta är en form av undervisning  där elever får fördjupa sin förståelse av samtidens företeelser och samtidigt ges tillfälle att öva sig i att se komplexiteten i det som sker, för att därigenom kunna utveckla tankar om potentiella framtidsvägar. Temanumret belyser på så sätt möjligheter att genom svenskämnet bidra till samhällets hållbarhetsarbete. Temanumret avslutas med en reflektion av just Kari Facer.

New PhD-thesis – by Ahmed Khateeb

This dissertation examines constructions of nature and childhood in a selection of contemporary Norwegian books for children and young adults. The selected titles are Stian Hole’s picturebook trilogy about Garmann (2006; 2008; 2010), the illustrated novel Tonje Glimmerdal (2009) by Maria Parr, and the novel Fredlaus (2006) by Ragnar Hovland. By engaging with ecocritical theory, philosophical texts on nature and formation by Rousseau and Thoreau, and Klafki’s theory of categorical Bildung, the main aim of the dissertation is to explore how the character’s experiences of and reflections on the landscapes they live in have formative qualities.

I have mainly dealt with the part of ecocriticism that discusses literary constructions of landscapes. Throughout the readings, I show that the selected texts reproduce culturally established ideas about pastoral and wild nature, and I argue that these ideas shape the characters’ interpretation and understanding of the landscapes.

As part of the analysis, I map the texts’ constructions of landscape and childhood against the “Nature-in-culture” matrix as developed in the research group “Nature in children’s literature and culture” at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. This matrix is an analytical tool that I use to discuss how the characters’ natural surroundings may be read as ecocritically formative landscapes where the relationship between nature and culture is celebrated, explored or problematized. Although I show that the texts reproduce anthropocentric and celebratory understandings of nature, I highlight that the characters problematize uncritical celebrations of nature, both in themselves and in other characters. This makes them examples of critical and self-reflexive characters who alternate between different ways of understanding themselves and their engagement with nature, while also assessing how other characters position themselves in the landscapes.

I find that the characters are constructed in dialogue with literary childhood figures from a romantic nature-celebrating tradition, while also arguing that it is possible to read the characters in dialogue with Anthropocene thinking by underscoring their problematizing reflections on human kind as a destabilizing ecological force found in the texts. These are formative reflections that lead the characters to the insight that their connections to the landscapes are not only idyllic and something to be celebrated but is also a complex relationship that involves responsibilities.

The dissertation is a contribution to the in-depth theoretical and analytical understanding of constructions of nature and childhood in children’s literature. It demonstrates that the primary texts examined reproduce established ideas about the relationship between nature and childhood, while also presenting new insights into the ways in which such thinking is explored and developed in new literary texts for children and young adults.

Climate Panel on Plants in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

“Agency, Kinship, and Stories of Plants”

Join us for a conversation on the representation of plants in children’s and young adult hosted by Melanie Duckworth and Lykke Guanio-Uluru, co-editors of Plants in Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Panelists will include Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak, Anja Höing, Mónika Rusvai, and Terri Doughty. They will discuss critical plant theory, kinship, and the agency of plants in relation to a broad range of children’s and young adult literature from Sweden, the US; Australia and the UK: from Elsa Beskow’s plant people to the terrifying Wood in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted; from violent vegetables in Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s The 52-Storey Treehouse to arboreal poetry written by children.

Climate change, deforestation, mass plantations, pesticides and genetic engineering are affecting both plants and the complex ecosystems to which they – and we – belong. One way to begin addressing these issues is to start thinking of plants as more than just objects. Do plants think? We know that they sense – but do they feel? What characterizes plant knowledge? Should we think of them as people? Even if we do not – do plants have rights?

These are questions being asked in the emerging field of critical plant studies. Here, we explore such questions in relation to the rich and varied worlds of children’s literature, which offer unique opportunities to imagine and encounter the life of plants.

Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions and comments. The event will be recorded.

Event Information:

  • Format: Live Zoom webinar
  • Time: 09.00-10.00 CT
  • Date: March 11, 2022
  • Registration required
  • Webinar link will be emailed after registration

 

Lykke Guanio-Uluru is Professor of Literature at Western Norway University and researches literature and ethics, particularly plant studies, ecocriticism, fantasy, and game studies. She is the author of Ethics and Form in Fantasy Literature (2015), co-editor of Ecocritical Perspectives on Children’s Texts and Cultures: Nordic Dialogues (2018) and the author of multiple articles, the most recent of which is “Analysing Plant Representation in Children’s Literature: The Phyto‑Analysis Map

Melanie Duckworth is Associate Professor of English Literature at Østfold University College, Norway, where she teaches English, postcolonial, and children’s literature. Her research interests include Australian literature, plant studies, children’s literature, and ecocriticism, and she has published on Australian historical children’s fiction, Australian literature, ecofeminism, and contemporary poetry.

Two publications by Roberta Grandi – both on Watership Down

I. “Anyway, What’s a Doe More or Less?” Androcentrism in Watership Down (1972) and Tales from Watership Down (1996) by Richard Adams

Abstract: When Adams’s Watership Down reached the US market, it came under strong criticism for “its anti-feminist bias” (Resh Thomas 1974: 311). Several years later, Le Guin reiterated the censure of its “egregious sexism” (2009: 82), taxing the novel with falsifying animal behaviour. However, through the comparison of Lockley’s The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964) and Adams’ text, it is possible to prove that the latter’s representation of rabbits’ society is actually strongly indebted to his source text for its blatant androcentrism. The sequel, Tales from Watership Down, published in 1996, ostensibly tries to give the does more “floodlight” (Adams in Monaghan 2011: 14) and make amends for some of the accusations received. However, as the paper highlights, while the novel undeniably conveys a strong ecological message, its point of view remains strenuously patriarchal.

II. «Animals don’t behave like men… They have dignity and animality». Richard Adams’s Watership Down and Interspecies Relationships in the Anthropocene

Abstract: When thinking of animals in children’s literature, the pictures that usually come to mind are those of anthropomorphized beasts “merely embodying human tropes» (Jaques 2015: 45), talking creatures that mirror human behaviour and oftentimes interact with men. However, in Watership Down (1972), thanks to the accurate study of rabbits’ social organization as described in Lockley’s The Private Life of The Rabbit (1964), Adams manages to offer the reader a full “immersion in lapine natural history» (Buell 2014: 411). In this anthropocenic world, the “contact zones» (Haraway 2008:4) between men and animals are configured as conflict regions where the rabbits fight their daily battle against their predators. Yet, while all other non-human animals “do what they have to do» driven by fundamental needs, human beings are the only creatures whose attitude is both gratuitous and catastrophic. The article focuses on the way in which Adams, by allowing the reader to adopt a defamiliarized point of view on human behaviour “gives agency to the earth» (Battista 2011: 159). Moreover, the study also analyses the relevance and consequence of the fact that in Watership Down animals are capable of fostering fruitful interspecies relationships and even forming alliances with other creatures. Hence, “humanity» becomes a derogative term effectively replaced by “animality» as the byword for a new, eco-centric non-exploitative attitude towards other fellow creatures.

Plants in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Edited By Melanie Duckworth and Lykke Guanio-Uluru

From the forests of the tales of the Brothers Grimm to Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree, from the flowers of Cicely May Barker’s fairies to the treehouse in Andy Griffith and Terry Denton’s popular 13-Storey Treehouse series, trees and other plants have been enduring features of stories for children and young adults. Plants act as gateways to other worlds, as liminal spaces, as markers of permanence and change, and as metonyms of childhood and adolescence. This anthology is the first compilation devoted entirely to analysis of the representation of plants in children’s and young adult literatures, reflecting the recent surge of interest in cultural plant studies within the environmental humanities.

Mapping out and presenting an internationally inclusive view of plant representation in texts for children and young adults, the volume includes contributions examining European, American, Australian, and Asian literatures and contributes to the research fields of ecocriticism, critical plant studies, and the study of children’s and young adult literatures.

Read chapters by

Nina Goga and Lykke Guanio-Uluru

Analysing Plant Representation in Children’s Literature: The Phyto‑Analysis Map

By Lykke Guanio-Uluru

Recent biological research (Trewavas, 2003; Mancuso & Viola, 2013; Gagliano, 2018) has (re)demonstrated the variety and complexity of the adaptive behaviour of plants. In parallel with these findings, and in acknowledgement of the important role played by plants in the biosphere and climate of the planet, the representation of plants in philosophy, arts and literature has become an object of study within the environmental humanities. In response to the rapidly developing field of critical plant studies, the representation of plants in literatures for children and young adults are now accumulating. Even as the number of studies is increasing, there is as yet no cohesive framework for the analysis of plant representation in children’s literature. This article addresses this gap. Inspired by the Nature-in-Culture Matrix, an analytical figure that provides an overarching schema for ecocritical analysis of children’s texts and cultures (see Goga et al., 2018), this article presents an analytical framework for plant-oriented analysis, the Phyto-Analysis Map. This map has been developed with reference to central concepts from the field of critical plant studies, and its usefulness is elucidated through literary examples. Developed with children’s fiction in mind, the map also has potential application with children’s non-fiction, which often employs fictional textual techniques.

Read article here.