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Starting Grant 2018 - Vanessa Joosen

Constructing Age for Young Readers (CAFYR)


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.