CFP – Symposium: Any Signs of Childness?

Peter Hollindale’s Signs of Childness in Children’s Books (1997), 20 years on.
Day Symposium, 05/05/2017
Department of Education, University of York (UK)
H/G21, The Eynns Room 

I wish to argue here that childness is the distinguishing property of a text in children’s literature, setting it apart from other literature as a genre, and it is also the property that the child brings to the reading of a text. 

Twenty years ago, Peter Hollindale coined the term ‘childness’ to qualify, or rather evoke, the particular feel of those discourses which express with unique intensity something of the quality of being a child in a certain place and time. Childness, Hollindale argued, is not a static property; always situated, it occurs through reading events, and signals a successful exchange between text and young reader.

This compelling but also elusive concept, although very often mentioned in children’s literature studies, has arguably been underused; children’s literature theorists have not engaged with that text as much as with Hollindale’s other celebrated work, Ideology and the Children’s Book (1988). Yet the ‘I know it when I see it’ dimension of childness continues to condense much of the seduction and frustration of children’s literature as an object of study. In this symposium, we welcome scholarly contributions that reread, update, reevaluate, rethink, or trace the legacy of, Hollindale’s concept in the light of two decades of children’s literature theory and criticism. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Childness and contemporary children’s literature theory
  • Childness and exchange: ‘kinship’ and ‘difference’ models; generational gaps and ‘cultural time-gaps’; adult-child relationships; childness and ‘adultness’
  • The reading event: potential uses of ‘childness’ in empirical work
  • Childness and sociological, political and intersectional approaches to children’s literature
  • Childness beyond children’s literature: childhood studies, education, sociology and philosophy of childhood; general literary theory
  • Childness beyond children’s books: multimedia, film, cultural and material productions

We welcome abstracts of 300 words from researchers and postgraduates before February 5th, 2017. To submit an abstract or for any questions, please email

Peter Hollindale has kindly agreed to be present at the event.