Of Victorian Interest

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CFP: The Child in Neo-Victorian Arts and Discourse (special 2012 issue of Neo-Victorian Studies) (1/31/2012)

2012 Special Issue of Neo-Victorian Studies

The Child in Neo-Victorian Arts and Discourse: Renegotiating Nineteenth-Century Concepts of Childhood

Neo-Victorianism has become a major trend in contemporary literature and culture. Novels, motion pictures, documentaries and TV series have all contributed to the persistent re-imagination of the nineteenth century. While neo-Victorianism in fiction and film has sparked off a lively academic industry, its impact on children's literature and contemporary discourses on childhood has not yet been fully addressed. The Victorians were obsessed with the Romantic ideal of the innocent child of nature, an innocence that was thought to be perennially at risk; witness the centrality of the child victim in Victorian melodrama and the astonishing popularity of orphan narratives. Victorian constructions of childhood were also intimately linked to empire. Pauper children were frequently orientalised as 'street Arabs', while the indigenous inhabitants of the colonies were often portrayed as children, imposing
various forms of maternalism and paternalism upon the coloniser. Both pauper children at the metropolitan centre and indigenous children at the outskirts of empire were frequently construed as orphans, even if their parents were still alive. Orphan narratives framed trafficking in children from the outskirts of empire to the centre and vice versa, as pauper children were sent abroad to the settler colonies as cheap labour hands, while 'orphans' in the colonies were removed from their parents in order to be raised at missionary homes or by Anglo-parents who could not conceive themselves.

This special issue of Neo-Victorian Studies will explore how Victorian constructions of childhood are re-mediated and renegotiated in contemporary arts and discourse, from neo-Victorian children's literature and/or fiction featuring children, heritage film and television, the media, social policy making and family politics, to present-day legal frameworks. In particular, how do revisionary fiction and other contemporary cultural discourses for/about children and/or young adults rejuvenate, modify, and assist us in re-thinking the Victorians and associated themes of temporality, cross-generational continuities, and urgent social issues such as child labour, trafficking and paedophilia?

Contributions, both academic articles and creative pieces, are invited on (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • rewrites and film adaptations of Victorian children's/young adults' classics and/or child-focused fictions (The Little Princess, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, The Turn of the Screw, etc.)
  • re-imaginings of stock child characters from Victorian melodrama and other popular genres (orphans, street Arabs, innocent angels, feral and criminal children, etc.)
  • re-inventions of Victorian narrative and dramatic genres for children (e.g. the adventure story, fairytale, moral tract, Bildungsroman, puppet play, and pantomime)
  • adaptations of neo-Victorian genres for juvenile audiences (cf. steampunk or graphic novels for children and adolescents)
  • continuities/discontinuities between contemporary narratives about adoption and migration and nineteenth-century orphan narratives
  • imagined child readers/viewers
  • child illness/death; children and medicine
  • neo-Victorian vs. neo-Edwardian children's fiction and other art forms
  • the child victim in socio-legal and political discourse
  • colonial vs. postcolonial representations of the child

Please address enquiries and expressions of interest to the guest editors Claudia Nelson  at claudia_nelson@tamu.edu and Anne Morey at amorey@tamu.edu by 31st January 2012, including a 200 word proposal with draft bibliography and brief biographical details. Completed articles and/or creative pieces will be due 1st April 2012 and should be sent via email to the guest editors, with a copy to neovictorianstudies@swansea.ac.uk. Please consult the NVS website (http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/) for further submission guidelines.

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