CFP: Literary Juvenilia, material imagination and ‘things’

The Seventh International Literary Juvenilia Conference will be held at UNSW Sydney from Wednesday 20 May to Saturday 23 May 2020.

Following the success of the 2018 conference on ‘Minority Voices’ at St. John’s College, University of Durham, the International Society of Literary Juvenilia (ISLJ) and Juvenilia Press, welcome you to UNSW Sydney for a conference to discuss

Literary Juvenilia, material imagination and ‘things’

A young writer’s learning and creative experience is built around things. Drawing on Gaston Bachelard’s evocative phrase ‘material imagination’, this conference will explore the material culture of juvenilia: the relationship between ‘things’ and literary imagination and practice.

Young writers ranging from Pope, Chatterton and Burns in the eighteenth century, to Austen, the Brontës, Eliot and Dickens in the nineteenth, and Edith Wharton, C.S. Lewis, Judith Wright and J.K. Rowling in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have found inspiration and example in the everyday context of their writing practice—in a materiality related to their physical, social and cultural worlds and in the material conditions of their play, learning, imitation and critique. They have also experimented with what might be termed the concrete forms of early writing, with the making of books and magazines but also with a variety of genres that manifest variously on the page, suggesting an early awareness of relationship between content and form. Thus we will consider especially questions of material agency: how things structure early lives and writing habits; and how young writers imagine place, space and history through literary and visual artefacts.

We welcome papers that address both theoretical issues and close readings, both general discussions and individual case studies. It is anticipated that these papers relating to literary issues may also have multidisciplinary implications that extend to cognate areas of cultural enquiry, such as history, art history, education, media, philosophy, politics and theology.

Suggested topics:

  • ‘Things’, imaginary or real, that have inspired or have a special relationship with literary juvenilia.
  • Ways in which the material world is imagined in literary juvenilia.
  • Landscapes of early literary practice (natural or built environment; imaginary or real).
  • The role of ‘things’ in imitation and experiment.
  • The materiality and/or cultural history of early writing: book making, writing materials, diaries, source books and the like.
  • Readings of aspects of the material world in early writings (aspects that may facilitate, inspire or constrain the child writer).
  • School magazines and journal culture.
  • Collecting juvenilia: past and present; the juvenilia archive.
  • The relationship of visual and verbal in juvenilia; the material image and written word; illustration and marginalia.
  • The juvenilia of the Brontës, Jane Austen, or other writers in relation to the above issues.
  • Australian juvenilia in relation to the above topics.
  • Other related issues.

Potential presenters are asked to submit the following:

  • an abstract of at least 500 words for consideration
  • a brief Bio/CV paragraph, minimum 100 words

Papers will be 20 minutes, plus ten minutes for questions.

Abstract submissions close 30 January 2020

Keynote speakers:

David C. Hanson, Professor and Head, Department of English, Co-editor of Nineteenth Century Studies, Southeastern Louisiana University. He specialises in the study of the creative process and how texts evolve from composition through stages of publication; and is editor of The Early Ruskin Manuscripts1826-1842, a digital edition of the early writings of influential art critic John Ruskin.

Professor Hanson will speak on “Things that ‘seemed so uncome-at-able’: Juvenilia and the Print Culture of Travel”.

Beverly Taylor, Professor and Head, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She specialises in Victorian literature and culture, especially poetry and women novelists including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Brontës.

Professor Taylor will speak on “Becoming Acton Bell”, in celebration of the 2020 Bicentenary of Anne Brontë.

Trevor Cairney OAM, Honorary Professor, University of Sydney; Life Fellow UNSW. He has been a teacher, researcher, Dean of Education, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) and College Head. He has written widely on pedagogy, early learning, language, children’s literature, comprehension and family literacy. He has written 10 books and over 250 articles, and has presented keynote and plenary addresses to many audiences around the world. He also writes the well-known blog “Literacy, Families & Learning” which is followed internationally by thousands of parents, children’s authors and teachers.

Professor Cairney will speak on: “The Relationship of ‘Story’, Meaning and Imagination to the World”

D.W. Harding (1937) suggested, “reading, like daydreaming and gossiping, is a means to offer or be offered symbolic representations of life”. But this does not reflect a linear relationship to one’s world. Early reading and writing are intertwined with children’s explorations and actions, as they imagine futures and express meanings that matter. In this talk, I will explore the interrelationship of children’s early experiences of literature, writing and life, as they explore their material world to construct and communicate meanings that matter.      

Conference organisers:

Christine Alexander, Emeritus Scientia Professor, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Chris Danta, Associate Professor, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Donna Couto, Administration & Assistant Editor, Juvenilia Press, UNSW
Ryan Twomey, Senior Lecturer, English Department, Macquarie University
Pamela Nutt, Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Sydney



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