By Kay Waddilove, PhD student
A fascinating and eclectic set of papers, along with some innovatory events, combined to make the 2015 NCRCL PhD day an exceptionally interesting and enjoyable occasion. In Session 1 Anne Malewski offered a detailed deconstruction of the Shane Meadows’ film This is England (including a perceptive observation on the likeness between Margaret Thatcher and the puppet of Roland Rat), which led to vigorous debate and intense questioning from the audience. Kay Waddilove’s discussion of the 1950’s career novel phenomenon linked this short-lived but highly successful genre to the socio-economic changes of the post-war decade, particularly with regard to women’s lives, and postulated that such populist literature could carry important ideological messages.
Session 2 dealt with landscape matters: Sinead Moriarty used compelling images to discuss the dialogue between children’s literature and heroic-era stories, analysing the impact of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan on Robert Scott’s Terra Nova narrative, and establishing persuasive links between the Antarctic and Neverland. Nick Campbell spoke of William Mayne’s subtle use of language and his ‘archeological imagination’, using a range of paintings and illustrations to demonstrate his thesis on the representation of Neo-Romanticism in prose as well as in the more acknowledged visual medium.
After a delicious (and ecologically sound) lunch at The Hive, we returned to another pair of papers in Session 3. Sarah Pyke outlined the progress of her empirical research pilot with LGBTQ adults recalling their childhood reading, illustrated by original quotes. She went on to discuss different types of reading and how reader-response theory can address the effects of the childhood reading choices of LGBTQ adults. Erica Gillingham focused on Romance studies and discussed how lesbian YA novels combine aspects of popular romance, lesbian romance, and YA conventions, proposing an original analytic model of seven narrative elements for the genre, from the introduction of the heroine to the all-important first kiss to the resolution.
The fourth session concluded the day with talks from two fortunate beings who have recently completed their PhDs. Simon Machin outlined useful practical tips for revising and submitting the final thesis, while Judy Bainbridge (Dr Bainbridge!) reflected on the final stages between submission and viva.
Altogether a memorable day, and many thanks are due to all involved. The day was enhanced by the Exhibition and the fascinating poster displays compiled by delegates. These featured several ‘bookshelves’ – ecological titles by Peter Dickinson, archival copies of Puffin Post from the 1970s, first-edition career novels of the 1950s, lesbian YA romances, as well as a Memory Wall bookshelf created by attendees, and a post-it display on being-an-adult v being-a-child. The crowning event, however, was undoubtedly the Bake-Off, featuring a splendid array of home-made goodies, all linked to children’s literature, contributed by the delegates. Thanks are due to Alison Waller who bravely agreed to judge the winner, and (channeling Mary Berry to perfection), nobly tasted every contribution – and still so slim! Offering the opportunity for speakers to be videoed added a useful learning dimension for the presenters, and for this, and the other innovations, and not least their excellent advance organization of the day, huge thanks are due to Sinead and Anne. Thanks also to the contributors for providing thought-provoking papers which illuminated the variety of research projects being undertaken in the NCRCL. And finally, a nod to the outstanding and committed staff of NCRCL who force – ooops, I mean encourage – their research students to participate in such invaluable events – sine quibus non!!
Photos by Anne Malewski.