Playing at the Boundaries: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Play in Children’s Literature, Media and Culture
University of Cambridge
Organization: University of Cambridge
Marah Gubar – Associate Professor, MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Paul Ramchandani – LEGO Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning, The University of Cambridge Faculty of Education
Metamorphosis and multiplicity have increasingly come to characterise the media landscape of the twenty-first century. Emerging technologies of production, distribution, and consumption not only allow texts to travel new and often unpredictable circuits, but also lower the thresholds of participation in cultural life, producing a new generation of “produsers” (Bruns 2008). In this environment, children’s literature, media and culture have gone mainstream, as stories overspill the edges of their texts and dissolve the boundaries that have conventionally separated different media forms and disciplines. At this juncture, we would like to invite scholars to join us in experimenting with the forms and shapes of our own discipline; to play, if you will.
The current cultural moment demands that scholars welcome approaches that are themselves nimble, dynamic, responsive and experimental, particularly from those of us who study childhood and its ephemera. Taking inspiration from play theorists such as Thomas Henricks, this conference proposes play as a metaphor through which to look anew at our field in this new era of border crossings. Play is not only action, but a mode of interaction and activity; a disposition, an experience and ultimately a context (Henricks ‘Theme and Variation’, 136). Such understandings of play open up new ways of thinking about the ways cultural products are engaged in everyday life – as a potential form of imaginative play, or an act through which texts becomes animated. Additionally, through their connotations of interaction and motion, they allow scholars to inhabit the intersections and overlaps between fields that are an increasingly common feature of the current cultural moment.
We therefore invite papers that explore the place of play in children’s literature, media and culture in experimental, transgressive, and creative ways. We encourage scholars from the fields of children’s literature, screen studies, games studies, media and communication, material culture and, of course, scholars studying play from both theoretical and empirical perspectives, to join us in considering the latent metacritical potentials of play and its diverse modes and forms in bridging disciplinary divides.
Specific topics include but are not limited to:
- Text as plaything, playmate, playspace: the book as material object – as toy, as media, as technology, as haptic text etc.
- Power Play: Play as criticism; the infantilisation of play; the role of play in demarcating high and low culture, adult and child culture, or traditional and experimental art
- Play as aesthetic: What makes a text playful? What is the look and feel of a playful text?
- History of Play: Play and material culture; evolution of play; cultural construction of play
- Playing with texts: adaptation and transmediation in children's literature, media and culture; the place of the child in relation to participatory cultures, fan studies etc.
- Interplay: Analysing other media forms (comics, films, animation, comics, video games) from a children’s literature perspective; interdisciplinary approaches to the study of children’s literature media and culture and playing with theory
- Performative Play: theater, animation, apps, games as playful forms; interactivity and embodiment in children's media consumption
- Play as subversion: play and agency; play and creativity
- Wordplay: interpretation, meaning-making as form of creative play
Proposals of 250 words for a 20-minute paper should be sent, together with a 100-word bio, to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 7, 2019. We also encourage panel and round-table proposals, especially those that that seek to employ unconventional modes of presentation.