Saturday, 28 April 2018

Intergenerational solidarity in children's literature - Clémentine Beauvais

While this post magically appears on ABBA, I will be at this nice-sounding event in Cambridge:

Intergenerational solidarity: what a beautiful prospect. Older and younger, adult and child, teenager and elderly, baby, toddler and the middle-aged, all holding hands and helping each other achieve existential peace and absolute happiness.

Of course, that's not what often happens in children's literature, where adults tend to be repressive and didactic (or dead), teenagers are moody and hate their elders, babies stink and bite and are detested by toddlers, and old people are alternatively murderous or so devoted to their darling grandchildren that apparently nothing else in life interests them.

Vanessa Joosen, who is a keynote at the event, talks of the 'seesaw effect' of intergenerational relationships in children's literature: often, she says, positive representations of relationships between children and older people tend to occur at the detriment of representations of adults, who, squeezed in-between, are the nasty ones.

Can there ever be peace and mutual help across generations in children's literature?

Of course, you know there can be (perhaps you've written books in which those relationships are central!) and I'd be curious to hear your examples. As for myself, I'll be presenting a paper on what happens specifically when children's literature protagonists are allowed to grow old in children's literature. How do their relationships to other generations vary across the life course?

I'll give you a summary of the event next time!

Clémentine Beauvais is a children's and young adult author in French and English, as well as a literary translator. Her latest YA novel, Piglettes, is out with Pushkin Press. Her next novel, In Paris with You, will be out with Faber in June.


Anne Booth said...

That's os interesting - I would LOVE to be at that conference and am looking forward to your report!

Anne Booth said...

SO interesting - not os!

Moira Butterfield said...

That sounds `a fascinating place to be! Will look forward to hearing about it.

Sue Purkiss said...

This is interesting! Of course, when characters from children's books are revisited and imagined as their older selves, there's a risk, is there not, of alienating the original readers. I'm thinking particularly of Alan Garner's re-imagining of Susan from The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, in his later book (whose name I can't just recall now); it was challenging, to say the least. But more simply, there's Wendy-as-mother in Peter Pan, and Anne of Green Gables when she's older: I felt a bit let down by both of these. Where had all the magic gone? They'd grown so dull. But then again, perhaps that's partly because they were of their time, when most women didn't do particularly exciting things with their lives...