Ecocritical Perspectives on Children’s Texts and Cultures

This project thus seeks to provide contemporary and up-to date views on eco-critical and environmental perspectives as they emerge in Nordic and international children’s texts and culture. The research project is divided into five thematic sections: Ethics and Aesthetics, Landscape, Vegetal, Animal, and Human.


The first section deals with issues of Ethics and Aesthetics as they pertain both to the reading of children’s literature and to our aesthetic experience of nature, as well as to how these different fields of experience influence and inform each other. The section ranges from philosophic analysis of the nature of aesthetic perception to the more practically-oriented approach of asking how children create inner images of nature through engagement with picturebook. The section is focused on the concept of interspecies ethics, which is concerned with a decentring of ethical anthropocentrism – a move pivotal to addressing the rights and welfare of other species when discussing human approaches to the environment and to environmental literatures.


In the second section, Landscape, the figures of the pastoral and the idyll are discussed along with dystopian landscapes and the more recent concept of the Anthropocene (a proposed geological epoch marked by significant human impact upon the Earth’s natural systems) as it unfolds in contemporary children’s texts. In ecocritical studies, the concept of the pastoral is often discussed within both the visual arts and literature that has been indispensable in Western thinking for more than two millennia. Books for children display a wide variety of landscapes, including landscape formations central in understanding the endangered environment, such as the wilderness, the woods, the polar area, the jungle, islands, rural areas and different kinds of cityscapes.


The focus of the third section is the Vegetal, with a particular emphasis on trees and forests and plants. The chapters in this section draw on critical plant studies and posthumanism to analyze the mediations of trees and Nordic forests in children’s picturebooks, poetry and story apps.


The fourth section, Animal, contains studies of bestiaries and of human-animal descriptions and interactions in texts for children, and discusses how posthumanism opens up ways for rethinking interspecies relationships. Drawing on posthumanist theory, it focuses on border crossings between humans and non-human animals in children’s prose and poetic texts.


Turning the anthropocentric bias on its head, the category of Human features the fifth section. This section examines mediations and practices where human growth and development are framed by the concepts of nature and wilderness. Thus, all the contributions in this section are tied to a discourse of human Bildung.


The various sections all discuss ways in which different environments are framed and mediated within children’s and YA literature and culture, highlighting the diversity of these descriptions while at the same time acknowledging the enduring influence of inherited topoi such as those of the pastoral, the idyll, and the wilderness.