Not an Exit but a Shift: Changing Children's Literature (MLA, Vancouver, January 5-8, 2015 / Deadline: March 1, 2014)

full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association

In her 1998 article "Exit Children's Literature?" Maria Nikolajeva meditates on contemporary trends in the children's genre and closes with the statement that "we must acknowledge that, sooner or later, children's literature will be integrated into the mainstream and disappear." This panel responds to the question of her title, but it focuses less on the idea of a disappearance or death, and more on a reimagining of the children's genre. In this way, we work from Nikolajeva's earlier suggestion that we must "re-define our notion of children's literature." With this in mind, we invite papers that address the ways turn-of-the-twenty-first-century children's texts have shifted to accommodate and reflect a contemporary childhood through changes in aesthetics, mediums, genres, and/or ideologies.

Papers that acknowledge and detail new frameworks for understanding the genre (as opposed to using the label of "exit" or "death") will be given special consideration. We strongly encourage papers to keep Nikolajeva's work in mind; while it is not necessary to directly engage this piece, familiarity with her argument, and other similar arguments about the possible end of children's literature, is a strength.

Topic suggestions include, but are not limited to:

• Changing aesthetics in children's pictorial art
• Ethics of identity and a twenty-first century ideological inclusion
• The emergence and influence of new ALA awards, such as the Pura Belpré and Stonewall Book Awards
• Changing constructions of childhood and corresponding cultural experiences of the twenty-first century child
• Depictions of a realistic twenty-first century and its complicated childhoods
• Historical comparisons and contextual understandings of the child across the genre
• The effects of new media on children's literature and children's culture
• The emergence of a clearly marketed pre-adolescent "middle grade" genre and a "New Adult" genre
• Analyses of new genre features, literary and cultural

Please submit 500-word abstracts to Ramona Caponegro ( and Abbie Ventura ( by March 1.

This panel is sponsored by the Children's Literature Association but is not guaranteed. The 2015 MLA conference will be held in Vancouver, January 5-8.