Edited Collection: Examining the Power of Children's Play (abstracts due Sept. 1, 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Joyce Kelley
contact email: 

This is a call for essay abstracts for an edited collection on depictions of children's play in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature.

Children's play tests the roles, customs, ideas, and forms set by society. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky famously theorized it as a crucial means of interaction between a child and his or her environment. As child psychologist Sally Jenkinson has argued, play is one place where a child manifests control over his or her world, becoming "active rather than passive." Margaret Lowenfeld observed in the 1930s, "Every child enjoys tremendously. . . being, temporarily and imaginatively, in possession of the power of his elders" (133). As a child imitates and recreates her world, she both reinforces social codes and bends them to suit her desires. Building their own models of the adult world, children and their play have the potential to be antagonistic to adult value systems.

The proposed edited collection will examine depictions of children's play in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature. The collection will especially focus on play's empowering, disruptive, or subversive abilities. "Play" might include solitary or interactive games, puzzles, riddles, story creation, linguistic play, interaction with toys or dolls, imaginary lives or worlds, "pretend" activities, or sociodramatic recreation (including role-playing). While many of the essays will focus on children's play in children's or young adult fiction, submissions are welcomed discussing children's play in any Victorian or modern texts (written for adults). Currently the editor invites analysis of any fiction originally published in English, including American, British, Canadian, and colonial/postcolonial texts, though the volume's scope may be narrowed geographically depending on the abstract submissions received. The collection is open to studies of both canonical and noncanonical texts.

Please send detailed abstract and 1-2 page updated C.V. to jkelley8@aum.edu by September 1, 2015. Please title email "Abstract for Edited Collection." Abstracts should be 350-600 words and must give a specific overview of the primary texts to be discussed as well as the proposed essay argument. The submission should also include a brief discussion of any existing publications on this text/topic, and what the proposed essay can add that approaches the topic in a new way. Essays of roughly 20-25 pages (around 8,000 words) will be due in early 2016. Essays should represent new or ongoing scholarship and should not have been published previously.

The editor is an associate professor of English at Auburn University Montgomery. She has a monograph forthcoming in 2015 and has published a number of essays on Victorian and modernist fiction, as well as on children's literature.