Ecocritical Engagement with Picturebook through Literature Conversations

This article addresses the need for student teachers to experience how to engage ecocritically with children’s literature to be able to support and develop the sustainability competencies of their future students. In order to respond to this need, we designed a research project examining how Norwegian and Catalan student teachers express and negotiate their ideas about an Italian–French picturebook in a teacher–researcher designed ecocritical literature conversation (ELC). The collected material, consisting of students’ notes and sound recorded and transcribed group discussions, was analysed following the steps of content analysis with an emphasis on finding evidence of dialogic competencies and ecocritical competencies. Although the students did not explicitly integrate ecocritical terminology in their discussions, we found that when structured in line with ideas of dialogic teaching, ecocritical thinking, and literature didactics, literature conversations proved to be a useful tool for these students to critically engage with and negotiate about representations of nature and ecological wisdom from the selected picturebook.

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New article: Children as eco-citizens?

Education for sustainability in early childhood tends to focus on practices and advocacy, rather than on the aims of this education. We suggest that the aim should be to consider children as being and becoming eco-citizens. This suggestion is built on an exploration of children as eco-citizens. With theories concerning child-sized citizenship we suggest a description of children and adults as being and becoming eco-citizen. We explore this through the fields of nature connection and science and children’s curiosity. We find that environmentally friendly practices as gardening and harvesting wild food show how children’s eco-citizenship is realizable. We support this additionally by references to how children’s literature, seeing how children depicted as eco-citizens can support the notion of children as eco-citizens. Through these analyses, we conclude that children should be viewed as being and becoming eco-citizens.

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Home is outdoors. A study of award-winning Norwegian picturebooks

Based on an investigation of 34 award-winning Norwegian picturebooks spanning the years from 1948 to 2010, I found that a substantial number portray outdoor spaces in nature as the most prevalent domestic space. My aim is to explore the depicted child’s relation to nature and discuss whether the child seeks to master nature, and how the idea of ‘mastering nature’ may be perceived. From the corpus, ten books have been selected for this exploration. The article is structured in three parts. First, I outline the comparative framework and the main findings of my inquiry into the whole corpus. Second, I sketch a theoretical background for the following analyses. This background is supported by studies on the importance of nature in Norwegian children’s literature and on the competent Nordic child . Finally, I present my analyses of the selected picturebooks with an emphasis on possible differences between boy and girl characters.
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The series collects selected articles based on papers presented at a joint ENSCAN and NaChiLitCul workshop on Ecocritical Perspectives on Nordic Children’s and Young Adult Literature . The workshop centred on mapping nature representations and ecological aspects of Nordic texts.

The selected articles based on the workshop will appear consecutively in the Nordic Journal of ChildLit Aesthetics in 2019 and 2020, creating a sustained focus on ecocritical perspectives. The readers will encounter articles presenting ecological positions in Birger Jåstad’s authorship, modes of environmental imagination in Swedish children’s literature, analyses of both unfamiliar and urban landscapes in Norwegian picturebooks, representations of Nordic landscapes in YA climate fiction, ecocritical perspectives on horse fiction, Sami culture, and more besides.

Hopefully this series of articles will instruct and inspire readers to engage with and further develop ecocritical readings of both Nordic and other under-researched regional literatures.

Ecocritical literature conversations – An arena for increased awareness of ecological interplay?

by Nina Goga

– By autumn 2020 a new national school curriculum (LK20) will be introduced in Norway. Some of what is new in LK20 is the introduction of cross-curricular themes and core elements in all school subjects. In this article I turn the attention to the cross-curricular theme sustainable development to discuss how this may be integrated into the school subject Norwegian and with a special emphasis on the core elements text in context, critical approach to text and oral communication.

The discussion is based on theoretical perspectives on ecocriticism, literature conversations and scaled reading, and on a specific proposal for how teachers may prepare for ecocritical literature conversations on representations of the relationship between children and trees in two literary classics for children.

The article argues that this bridging between careful reading of and conversation about children’s literature may evolve a critical approach to verbal depictions of multisensory nature experiences and hence contribute to increased awareness of ecological interplay. Such knowledge may prove significant to children’s linguistic skills needed to orientate in the overall climate discourse and to how they understand themselves as ecocitizens.


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Education for Sustainability: Developing Ecocritical Literature Circles in the Student Teacher Classroom

by Lykke Guanio-Uluru

– How can student-teachers learn efficient ways to encourage sustainability thinking in their pupils and fulfil the competence aims on sustainability outlined in national subject curriculums as a response to UNESCO’s programme on Education for Sustainable Development, ESD? The core hypothesis of this project was that tailored literature circles, focused on the ecocritical aspects of literary texts, would make student-teachers aware of how they can use literature as a process to reflect on sustainability. This would enable them to incorporate sustainability thinking into their own teaching practices.

The project’s tailoring of the standard literature circle roles (Daniels 1994, 2002, 2006) involved the design of reading roles that highlighted ecocritical and generic aspects of the studied texts and the application of an analytical matrix developed by literary scholars researching the representation of nature in children’s and young adult literature. This article presents the results of a small-scale study testing the ecocritical literature circles approach and its impact on student-teachers’ conception of their own ability to meet the competence aims on sustainability in their teaching. The intervention included lectures on ecocriticism and on the posthuman debate prior to the literature circles and student feedback through pre- and post-circle questionnaires. It was implemented in the teacher-training classroom, working with dystopian science fiction texts for young adults. These texts present the reader with visions of the future. The study showed that the ecocritical literature circles, and in particular the ecocritical reading roles, were considered useful by the participating student-teachers. The participants also reported a significant increase in confidence relative to their own ability to discuss sustainability issues with their pupils.

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Imagining Climate Change: The Representation of Plants in Three Nordic Climate Fictions for Young Adults

See Lykke Guanio-Uluru’s latest article



This article analyses the role of plants in three well publicised Nordic climate fictions for young adults: Memories of Water by Emmi Itäranta, originally published in 2012, The World According to Anna (2013) by Jostein Gaarder, and Bouvetøya 2052 (2015) by Lars Mæhle. Departing from the wider scholarly field of ecocritical theory, the study draws on the developing field of cultural plant studies to examine the role allocated to plants in these fictional depictions of climate change. The analysis is based on a quantitative counting and sorting of all references to plants in the analysed fictions. The aim of this exercise is to contribute to theoretical reflections on climate fiction (cli-fi) as a literary form and to say something about the kind of literary thinking with, and about, plants that currently informs (Nordic) climate fiction for young adults, given that plants are highly important to the global climate. While broadening the discussion of climate change fiction to include a consideration of plants, the article further contributes to theoretical reflection on cli-fi through its Nordic perspective. In dialogue with Adam Trexler’s work on Anglo-American climate change fiction, the Nordic fictions examined here display both similar and diverging patterns of engagement with climate change, something that highlights the importance of reflecting on the genre with reference to a wide spectrum of local literatures.