Research team

Expertise

Research on children's literature, contemporary Britsh literature and age in literature Courses on children's literature, Britsh women writers, age in literature, and the history of literature in English

Biased Books: A Data-driven Analysis of Representation in Illustrated Children's Literature in the Low Countries (1800-1940). 01/11/2022 - 31/10/2024

Abstract

Recent debate about the preservation of literary works that present outdated or disfavored views, has shown that literary representation is a highly controversial issue. Books influence to a significant extent how we perceive reality, ourselves, and others. Nevertheless, we are still missing a comprehensive overview of representation in Dutch-language children's literature. My research aims to fill that gap by answering the question which biases regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and social class can be detected in illustrations to Dutch children's literature from 1800 to 1940. I will pay particular attention to the intersectional nature of these biases, the interplay between visual and textual elements in its construction and how it is given shape at a surface level. For this research, I propose a computational, data-driven method to analyze bias in a corpus of 3000 illustrated children's books. Certain machine learning models are proven to implicitly model social biases, an issue which is rightfully criticized for its undesirable – and at times unethical - effects in downstream applications. This project will turn this deficiency to our advantage, using it as a unique research possibility. I will employ a combination of distant viewing and reading methods to uncover patterns of biased representation in the dataset. The results of this analysis will then serve as a touchstone for more contextualized close readings.

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  • Research Project

"Moi les hommes, je les déteste": Misandry as a literary discourse. 01/11/2022 - 31/10/2024

Abstract

In recent years, the notion of misandry as a liberating defence mechanism against systemic misogyny has become the subject of debate, particularly in French media, following the publication of Pauline Harmange's 2020 pamphlet "Moi les hommes, je les déteste". The portrayal of feminists as man-haters is an anti-feminist stigma, claimed as a discursive strategy by certain feminists such as Harmange. This project aims to provide deeper insights into the controversy surrounding the topic of misandry by examining if, where and in what forms misandrist literary discourse is expressed in the works of French women writers who are associated with feminist movements in the second half of the twentieth century. Relying on the discipline of Critical Discourse Analysis, my research approaches misandrist expressions in literature as a discourse and, more specifically, as a form of gendered hate speech targeted against a structurally dominant group. With my research outcomes, I intend to raise awareness on the subject of misandry as a discursive strategy and demonstrate what implications and possibilities this literary discourse can have for feminist movements.

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  • Research Project

The translation and intermedial adaptation of multimodal children's literature. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

This project proposes an interdisciplinary research in the fields of children's literature studies and translation studies. It aims to get a better understanding of multimodal children's literature in translation and intermedial adaptations in three languages. More specifically, Maureen Hosay wants to study how modes and media are combined in different versions, ranging from conventional interlingual translations to multimodal and intermedial adaptations in English, French, and Dutch. In the analysis of the case studies, Maureen Hosay will focus on the translations and adaptations of three contemporary multimodal works of children's literature that are very popular among young readers: We're Going on a Bear Hunt (M. Rosen, illustrated by H. Oxenbury), The Gruffalo (J. Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler) and The Story of Tracey Beaker (J. Willson, illustrated by N.. Sharratt). These children's books, written not long before the turn of the century (1989, 1991, and 1999 respectively), have been translated into numerous languages, and modally and medially adapted. Combining a bottom-up analysis of three case studies with a top-down approach based on insights of children's literature studies, translation studies, and adaptation studies, the project aims to develop a toolkit to supplement the current theoretical framework for studying children's literature in translation.

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  • Research Project

Understanding ideological bias through data-driven methods: testing cognitive social learning processes through intersectional analysis of past data (c.1800-c.1940) 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Ideological bias concerning age, gender, ethnicity and social class is a major ethical concern in contemporary society, influencing human behaviour both at macro- and micro-levels. Recent studies have demonstrated that machine learning methods (from artificial intelligence) not only capture, but amplify the ideological biases in the data they are trained on. In this project, we aim to strategically turn this undesirable property to our advantage and exploit the study of ideological biases for visual cultures in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (c.1800-c.1940). Recent cognitive studies make clear how ideological biases largely result from processes of social learning. To study the construction and dissemination of ideological bias we put forth three case studies in crucial areas of social control: education (children's literature), mass communication (magic lantern slides and performances), and regulation (police reports). These interlinked areas of study come with a wealth of rights-free digitized material and pre-existing scholarship. Through the application of standard routines from machine learning, we aim to elicit implicit patterns and trends relating to ideological bias and confront these with received knowledge. The current project is innovative in its methodology through its study of pixel data through computer vision in the humanities which has received too little attention so far. Moreover, it uses data-driven technology to present a novel intersectional viewpoint on the construction of ideological bias in the past. Finally, by being embedded in recent cognitive studies, the project will be able to make claims on how implicit bias functioned in the past, understanding better what people thought and how such thinking structured behavioural interactions with their surrounding world.

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  • Research Project

Constructing Age for Young Readers (CAFYR). 01/02/2019 - 31/01/2024

Abstract

CAFYR starts from the observations that Europe has recently witnessed a few pertinent crises in intergenerational tension, that age norms and ageism frequently go unchecked and that they are part of children's socialization. It aims at developing pioneering research for understanding how age is constructed in cultural products. CAFYR focuses on fiction for young readers as a discourse that often naturalizes age norms as part of an engaging story and that is endorsed in educational contexts for contributing to children's literacy, social and cultural development. The effect of three factors on the construction of age in children's books is studied: the age of the author, the age of the intended reader, and the age of the real reader. CAFYR aims to lay bare whether and how the age and aging process of children's authors affect their construction of the life stages in their works. It will show how various crosswriters shape the stages in life differently for young and adult readers. It considers the age of young readers as varied in its own right, and investigates how age is constructed differently for children of different ages, from preschoolers to adolescents. Finally, it brings together readers of various stages in the life course in a reception study that will help understand how real readers construct age, during the reading process and in dialogue with each other. CAFYR also aims to break new theoretical and methodological ground. It offers an interdisciplinary approach that enriches children's literature research with concepts and theories from age studies. It combines close reading strategies with distant reading and tools developed for digital text analysis. It provides a platform to people of different stages in life, contributing to their awareness about age, and facilitating and investigating dialogues about age, with the aim of ultimately fostering them more.

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  • Research Project

Constructing Age For Young Readers 01/02/2019 - 31/01/2024

Abstract

CAFYR starts from the observations that Europe has recently witnessed a few pertinent crises in intergenerational tension, that age norms and ageism frequently go unchecked and that they are part of children's socialization. It aims at developing pioneering research for understanding how age is constructed in cultural products. CAFYR focuses on fiction for young readers as a discourse that often naturalizes age norms as part of an engaging story and that is endorsed in educational contexts for contributing to children's literacy, social and cultural development. The effect of three factors on the construction of age in children's books is studied: the age of the author, the age of the intended reader, and the age of the real reader. CAFYR aims to lay bare whether and how the age and aging process of children's authors affect their construction of the life stages in their works. It will show how various crosswriters shape the stages in life differently for young and adult readers. It considers the age of young readers as varied in its own right, and investigates how age is constructed differently for children of different ages, from preschoolers to adolescents. Finally, it brings together readers of various stages in the life course in a reception study that will help understand how real readers construct age, during the reading process and in dialogue with each other. CAFYR also aims to break new theoretical and methodological ground. It offers an interdisciplinary approach that enriches children's literature research with concepts and theories from age studies. It combines close reading strategies with distant reading and tools developed for digital text analysis. It provides a platform to people of different stages in life, contributing to their awareness about age, and facilitating and investigating dialogues about age, with the aim of ultimately fostering them more.

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  • Research Project

Clothing and Age in Fairy Tales and their Modern Adaptations (MW). 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

Fairy tales represent an important site where relationships between age and gender are shaped and materialized by the use of clothing. Adulthood, body and age conceptions have recently been a central focus in scholarship on children's literature. Clothing in fairy tales is informed by the undressing and dressing of characters crossing different developmental stages: Cinderella's dress not only denotes a new social boundary but depicts her as having developed into a potential mating partner for the prince. This project examines fashion in folkloric and literary fairy tales and looks at age boundaries expressed by different modes of dress. Age represents one of the cardinal formative forces in fairy tales and decides how characters unfold in the course of the narrative. It is exactly the intersection between age and gender that drives the development of the characters in literary and folk tales. Clothing not only contributes to the construction of age and gender in fairy tales, but also marks a social distinction between the child's and the adult's body (Joosen 2018). In scholarship about age and gender in fairy tales, clothing has been rarely analyzed. While Catherine Orenstein, Lori Baker-Sperry, Liz Grauerholz and Carol Scott mention that clothing becomes the agent of many kinds of magical transformations of identity, they do not look at the relationship between age and clothing and their effect on gender identity. While Vanessa Joosen examines the construction of age and bodily conceptions in fairy tales, and Christina Bacchilega and Alessandra Levorato look at gender questions in fairy tale literature, there has been a complete gap in bringing the question of age and gender into discussion when looking at the use of clothing and accessories in fairy tales. The meaning that we attach to certain bodily features is socially and culturally determined (Ferguson 1994; Fraser and Greco 2004; Lesnik-Oberstein 2007, Joosen 2018). When thinking about age in children's literature, clothing represents new social and historical benchmarks. One might think of clothing as a social skin (Joosen 2018). Textile features and bodily features come into play when it comes to reading the body in terms of the social categories that constitute stages of life (Joosen 2018). This research project offers the first systematic, international, interdisciplinary and gender-connoted study of clothing and accessories in international folkloric fairy tales. Clothing informs new developmental stages of social and gender identities in fairy tales, while undressing as a form of unmasking in fairy tales often introduces the desire to pervert the process of aging in order to become young again; it refers back to jumping nakedly into the fountain of the youth in the 18th and 19th century (Just 204). The way people use and consume clothing as a process is fairly studied in sartorial studies (Turney & Franklin 2014, Almila 2016,) but has barely been examined and connected with respect to the study of fairy tales.

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  • Research Project

Constructing Adolescent Minds in Experimental Fiction for Young Readers: A Genetic Approach to Aidan Chambers' Dance series. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Since the late 1960s, children's literature studies has developed into a vibrant field of research that unites literary, social and educational approaches to books for young readers (including fiction for adolescents). Over the same period, genetic criticism has grown into an area of study that surpasses traditional philology and text-critical analysis, focusing on the so-called avant-texte (documents preceding the publication of a literary work) as interesting literary material in its own right. To this date, the two fields of children's literature studies and genetic criticism have rarely engaged with each other. In this project, theoretically framed and in-depth genetic research is used to explore the construction of adolescence and the defining notion of the young addressee in the writing process of children's books. The project also pays attention the collaborative process that precedes the publication of a book for young reader – a process that always involves gatekeepers such as publishers, and sometimes also graphic designers and young readers themselves. It focuses on a canonical, particularly challenging author who has been both lauded and criticized for his approach to adolescent literature: Aidan Chambers. This British author won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2002 for his experimental approach to adolescent fiction. Chambers' Dance series (1978-2005), named after its best known title Dance On My Grave (1982), is considered a milestone. For this project, selected items from Chambers' notebooks, sources, manuscripts, typescripts and correspondence are transcribed and digitized. The researchers involved reconstruct and interpret the writing process of Aidan Chambers' Dance series, thus contributing to a better understanding of this seminal author's adolescent fiction. In doing so, they aim to supplement the field of children's studies with state-of-the-art approaches from genetic criticism, including tools from digital humanities, in order to get a better understanding of the creative processes of adolescent fiction in particular, and vice versa, to introduce the aspect of "age" (including the author's own age and the concept of the "young addressee") to genetic criticism. Finally, they also develop practice-based methodological reflections on doing genetic research with a living author. Chambers' writing process will be visualized and studied with Manuscript Web, a digital scholarly editing platform developed at the University of Antwerp to accommodate the needs of genetic editions, allowing the editor to process and visualize not only the scans and transcriptions of draft materials, but also the intricate relations between those documents. By plotting out genetic pathways between different types of documents (like personal library items, notebooks, manuscripts, or published versions), the user can follow the progression of the text as it developed over time. At the end of the project, an online, educational manual will be developed to help teachers and secondary-school pupils navigate the genetic edition of Chamers' works, raise their textual awareness and critical reading skills, and add further depth to their understanding of Chambers' books and children's literature in general.

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  • Research Project

The effect of multimedia hyperlinks in fiction on reading motivation and immersion in adolescent readers: An empirical study. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

Adolescents' reading habits, particularly of literary texts, are the object of scientific and social concern. Due to the omnipresence of short, digital texts they would read fewer literary texts, be less motivated to do so, and consequently underperform. Especially young adolescents are characterized by a drop in reading motivation. However, reading promoters point out the new possibilities of digital literary texts, such as hypermedia fiction. Hypermedia fiction offers the possibility to read literary texts on tablet, enriched with hyperlinks to supportive or comprehensive information. Hypermedia fiction could address a specific reading audience, particularly young, reluctant readers. In view of its recent character, research on hypermedia fiction is rather scarce and consequently the scientific and societal question whether hypermedia fiction can enhance reading motivation and story world immersion has not yet been answered. This project aims to fill that void. The research will be based on two consecutive studies on 12 to 13-year-old pupils and their teachers of Dutch. Five novels from different literary genres will be used as study material. In study 1 pupils (N=30) and teachers (N=30) are invited to mark the instances where they would like to have hyperlinks. This study results in two different data sets: 60 annotated novels, and qualitative data based on focus groups. These data provide insight in the desirability of hyperlinks (a.o. type, frequency) in literary texts and their influence on reading motivation and story world immersion. The annotated novels serve as the basis for study 2, in which the five novels are first converted to hypermedia fiction, and consequently read by 200 pupils in five so-called tablet schools. Each class is divided in three subgroups. One group reads a novel as hypermedia fiction (= experimental group); the other two groups read it on tablet (without hyperlinks) and on paper (= control groups). The experiment is conducted three times, in which each subgroup adopts the role of experimental group once. Data collection will be carried out with preliminary, intermediate and post-measurements; by monitoring click behaviour in the experimental group and focus groups. The research project will be carried out in close interfacultary cooperation between FSW/ASoE and FLW.

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  • Research Project

Growing Scientists. STEM-representations, identity construction and active citizenship in fictional and nonfictional children's literature. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Literacy with regard to Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) is considered worldwide to be a key factor in societal growth. Research and education are therefore strongly geared towards fostering STEM literacy. Cultural artefacts for the young, such as children's books, are rarely included in these efforts. That omission is deplorable, because children's concepts of science are not only constructed in schools or museums. Stories and books contribute to children's identity construction, to their worldviews, and to their perception of STEM. Contemporary children's literature is characterized by a great diversity in terms of target groups, genres and literary quality, but science is a recurrent topic. We find scientific themes in popular series, awarded books (in particular in so-called literary nonfiction) and as the focus of the children's book week. The rich array of contemporary children's books offers a varied image of STEM and scientists and can thus counteract the stereotypical image of the male, old and confused scientist that children encounter time and again in popular culture. This research project therefore focuses on contemporary children's books carrying schemes, scripts and metaphors related to STEM, in order to assess their potential contribution to STEM-education and to reflections on science and scientists. Based on theories and models from cognitive sciences, we analyze a corpus of children's fiction and nonfiction for children aged 6 to 14, published in 2000-2015. First, we map the diversity of scientists as characters in the children's books. In addition to the importance of gender that is highlighted in STEM-education, we also draw attention to age, social class, race, and physical and mental abilities. Second, we explore the narratological features that are used to address children as budding scientists. Crucial is the concept of scientific agency, that is the way in which STEM is shown to increase (or limit) the power and opportunities of growth for the characters. Next, we analyze how children's books teach scientific knowledge and skills and how they cast the relationship between science and society. In the course of this analysis, we focus on recurrent scripts, such as the Eureka experience, or the Frankenstein plot. This project is the first to apply models from cognitive poetics to children's literature about STEM. In addition, it is unique in studying both fiction and non-fiction for children, and exploring a corpus of contemporary Dutch-language children's literature that has been neglected by literary scholarship. Finally, in connecting STEM education and literary scholarship, this project aims to have a significant social impact.

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  • Research Project

Research in the field of children's literature in the Low Countries. 22/02/2010 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

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  • Research Project

From "black as ebony" to "Black as ink": The Dutch and Flemish translations and retellings of "Snow White" in the literary-historical reception of Grimm's fairy tales. 01/10/2008 - 03/02/2012

Abstract

This postdoctoral research project charts the most important tendencies in the Flemish and Dutch reception of Grimm's fairy tales. It compares the translations, adaptations, illustrated versions and parodies of "Snow White" with Grimm's source text and interprets the stylistic, structural and thematic shifts in the light of dominant and changing attitudes towards the fairy tale, fantasy literature, children's literature and translated literature.

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  • Research Project

New perspectives on fairy tales. Research project on the intertextual dialogue between fairytale criticism and German, English and Dutch fairy-tale retellings in the period from 1970 tot 2000. 01/10/2005 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

Ever since children's literature gained its status as a part of literature worthy of academic study, fairy tales have received much attention from critics and scholars, especially the tales that were collected by the Grimm Brothers. 'Adult' literary theories such as feminism, psychoanalysis, structuralism and post-structuralism have provided interesting new perspectives on the old texts. At the same time there was, and still is, a lively interest in fairy tales on the part of writers and illustrators. Authors invent new tales or rewrite older ones, and the original stories are often published with new, inventive illustrations. In my PHD I investigate the relationship between the theoretical discussion of fairy tales and fictional adaptations or rewritings based on these tales. Both genres often express the same ideas, but have to make use of their own typical characteristics and constraints. Since children have no access to literary criticism, fairy-tale retellings can partly fill in that gap: very often they offer the reader a critical perspective on the Grimm tales.

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  • Research Project

New perspectives on fairy tales. Research project on the intertextual dialogue between fairytale criticism and German, English and Dutch fairy-tale retellings in the period from 1970 tot 2000. 01/10/2003 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

Ever since children's literature gained its status as a part of literature worthy of academic study, fairy tales have received much attention from critics and scholars, especially the tales that were collected by the Grimm Brothers. 'Adult' literary theories such as feminism, psychoanalysis, structuralism and post-structuralism have provided interesting new perspectives on the old texts. At the same time there was, and still is, a lively interest in fairy tales on the part of writers and illustrators. Authors invent new tales or rewrite older ones, and the original stories are often published with new, inventive illustrations. In my PHD I investigate the relationship between the theoretical discussion of fairy tales and fictional adaptations or rewritings based on these tales. Both genres often express the same ideas, but have to make use of their own typical characteristics and constraints. Since children have no access to literary criticism, fairy-tale retellings can partly fill in that gap: very often they offer the reader a critical perspective on the Grimm tales.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project