How picturebooks and picture books work

Cambridge Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature
University of Cambridge, UK
September 6-8, 2018


The aesthetic aspects of storytelling through word and image have been studied extensively in the past thirty-odd years. In 1982, the Swedish scholar Kristin Hallberg launched the concept of iconotext that has been widely employed in discussing the phenomenon. Perry Nodelman's Words about Pictures (1988) was a landmark that placed the subject firmly within children's literature research. The first international conference wholly devoted to the art form was held in Stockholm in 1998, featuring, among others, Jane Doonan and William Moebius. An international network was established in 2007, running biennial conferences and workshops. Dozens of monographs and edited volumes have been published, the most recent More Words about Pictures (2017), edited by Perry Nodelman, Naomi Hamer and Mavis Reimer, and The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks (2017), edited by Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer.

And yet there is no universal consensus about the object of inquiry, starting with the controversy of spelling. While most scholars agree that the interaction of words and images is essential, there is no clear agreement on the difference between illustrated books and picture book/picturebooks, nor on the differences and similarities between picture books/picturebooks and comics, nor on the relationship between printed and digital texts.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary since the publication of Words about Pictures and to explore the recent development in picture book/picturebook theories, Cambridge Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature invites paper proposals on any aspect of theoretical approaches to picture books/picturebooks as an art form. We are particularly interested in new approaches that go beyond statements that picture books/picturebooks depend on the combination of the verbal and the visual. We also welcome authors, illustrators, publishers and translators. Possible topics include, but are not restricted to:

- Picture book/picturebook as an art form and a material object
- Picture books/picturebooks and other word/image-driven texts (e.g. illustrated books, picture dictionaries, concept books, artist books)
- Metalanguage for discussing picture books/picturebooks: coming to terms
- Theory vs. culture: how trustworthy are the semiotic generalizations of books like Words about Pictures or How Picturebooks Work in relationship to  picture books/picturebooks produced in different times, places, cultures? Is there a universal language of picture books/picturebooks?
- Picture book/picturebook design: creators' perspective
- Is there anything beyond words and images? Picture books/picturebooks without words? Picture books/picturebooks without pictures?
- Looking at words, seeing pictures (e.g. implications of fonts, intraiconic texts, etc)
- Young readers' engagement with word/image storytelling: do words and pictures invite different kinds of relationships between texts and readers?
- How have adjacent areas of research benefited from picture book/picturebook theory, for instance, digital literature, comics, graphic novels and games?
- Translation and transmediation


We will not consider proposals on content-focused topics.

Confirmed jousters are Perry Nodelman and Maria Nikolajeva.

Deadline: January 8, 2018. 300-word (or any size image) proposals for a 20-minute paper should be sent, together with a 100-word bio, to mn351@cam.ac.uk. We also encourage panel and round-table proposals. Early indication of interest would be helpful in arranging affordable accommodation. Further inquiries to mn315@cam.ac.uk.

 

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