Lissa Paul talks about our new book, Keywords for Children’s Literature, forthcoming from NYU Press in the Spring of 2011. Â I say “our” new book, but we are merely the editors. Â We did each contribute an essay of our own (Lissa wrote on “Literacy,” I wrote on “Postmodernism”), but other experts wrote the other 47 essays: Philip Pullman on “Intention,” Peter Hunt on “Children’s Literature,” Marah Gubar on “Innocence,” Beverly Lyon Clark on “Audience,” David Booth on “Censorship,” Mavis Reimer on “Home,” and many others. Â Â Lissa gave the talk last week, at the University of British Columbia. Â The talk runs 35 minutes, and questions take up the remaining 25 minutes.
What is a keyword? Â As Lissa notes in her talk and as we say in our introduction, a keyword is both crucial and contested. Â These are important words that we use, but on whose meanings we do not agree. Â So,Â Keywords for Children’s Literature follows in the spirit of Raymond Williams’s influential Keywords (1976), in offering “an exploration of the vocabulary of a crucial area of social and cultural discussion.” Â The main difference is, of course, that we’re focusing on words important to the study of children’s literature – and, in this sense (of tracking words within a particular field), Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler‘s Keywords for American Cultural Studies provided a model for us. Â Williams wrote all of his own keywords, but we and they sought experts – one per word, or sometimes a pair collaborating on a word.
Mapping meanings of key terms, the book is not intended as the last word on the subject, but rather as an invitation to begin a conversation. Â We hope that the essays inspire further discussion, debate, and suggestions. Â Which words do readers find generative for their own scholarship? Â Which words have we omitted? Â In about six months, we’ll look forward to seeing where that conversation goes! Â (And, yes, I’ll post again on the subject – including a complete list of keywords – closer to the pub date.)