Ladybird Books for Grown-ups: Between Nostalgia and Parody

deadline for submissions: 
February 3, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Christopher Marlow
contact email: 

The publication of Ladybird books ‘for Grown-Ups’ in the UK in 2015 and 2016 was a phenomenon, with the books selling over 2 million copies collectively. Titles such as The Ladybird Book of the Hipster, How it Works: The Mum, and The Ladybird Book of The Meeting ostensibly offer a frivolous take upon a variety of popular subjects in an attractive format. However, in doing so they reveal a complex temporality that prompts the reader to consider how their memories of an adult life imagined in childhood measure up to a present filled with everyday frustrations. What can these books tell us about contemporary British culture and its relationship with personal memory, collective historical past, and once-imagined future? How might we understand the association between the educational connotations of the Ladybird book-as-object and the parodic intent of the material inside its covers? We invite all interested researchers to contribute to this conference examining the impact and meanings of the books from a variety of perspectives. Papers that address one, some, or all of the books in the series are welcome. Consideration of the following themes would be welcome, but this list is not exhaustive:

            Nostalgia and memory

            Parody and pastiche

            The relationship between text and illustration

            Childhood studies and children’s literature

            The book as object and/or gift

            Intertextuality and adaptation

            Representations of gender and race

            Representations of animals

            Representations of ageing and older people

            Representations of work and the workplace

            Publishers and publishing

Accepted abstracts will form part of a bid to the British Academy for a conference award. If this bid is successful, the conference will take place in July 2018 at the British Academy’s premises in Carlton House Terrace, central London, and a themed collection of essays is likely to be published in the Proceedings of the British Academy series. Papers should be twenty minutes in length, and there will be a maximum of sixteen speakers in total. In the event that the conference award bid is unsuccessful, a contract for an edited collection on this material will be sought.

Abstracts of 250 words in length should be sent to Dr Christopher Marlow by Friday 3rd February 2017.