ChLA19 "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? The School Story in the Age of Neoliberalism" - extended deadline

deadline for submissions: 
October 5, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
David Aitchison
contact email: 

Panel for 2019 Annual Children’s Literature Association Conference (“Activism and Empathy”), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, June 13-15, 2019 

Scholars interested in popular representations of school experience often look back on texts and contexts from earlier eras, exploring stories premised on the race-, class-, and gender-skewed boarding-school paradigms of the late-nineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth centuries. And when discussing modern and contemporary texts, they similarly show how certain works—like the Harry Potter series—develop without departing from that boarding-school paradigm so redolent of the age of Empire before the democratization of education. But few studies make room for texts speaking realistically to contemporary conditions in schools. Conscious of this gap in the field, this panel will consider school stories for children and young adults in the neoliberal era—a period marked by the rise to power of policy-makers bent on dismantling public and humanities education, the reorientation of curricula to serve marketplace rather than democratic goods, and seismic shifts in school demographics. Defining the school story as a form of fiction representing the experiences of schoolchildren and educators in distinctive school settings where the ethos of the institutions matters, presenters are invited to explore the political implications of school stories for print or film representing contemporary experiences.

Questions to address might include, but are not limited to:

  • How do school stories respond to the bureaucratic mechanisms by which schools in the neoliberal era segregate students by race, ethnicity, class, or gender?
  • In what ways do contemporary authors and filmmakers use the conventions of the school story genre to intervene in public debates over curricula, literacy, and learning outcomes?
  • What genre claims might we make about contemporary school stories, structures of feeling, and political affect?
  • How do school-story authors or filmmakers figure the nexus of students, educators, and administrators as a crisis in and for politics?
  • In what ways might school stories suggest that acts of violence in schools—whether incidental, whimsical, intentional, or disturbing—are influenced by market forces?
  • To what extent might we take the school story in the neoliberal era to be an activist form, meant not only to disclose crises in education, but also to call for change?

250-word abstracts by October 5, 2018, to David Aitchison, dcaitchison@noctrl.edu