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Sense and Sensibility in Child Literature: Disinformation, Affect and the Literary Imagination

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This paper looks at gendered representations of affect and imagination. The concept of ‘sense and sensibility’ signals a pragmatic interest in resisting oppositional rhetoric—noting Jane Austen did not title her novel, ‘Sense or Sensibility’… The lively sensibility and imagination of the girl lead in a number of child literature texts has proven attractive to readers. Possible areas for discussion: representations of emotion and imagination; gendered constructions of reason/emotion; ‘maturing’ from sensibility to sense/childhood to adulthood; and spatialities of emotion. ‘Emotional authenticity’ and ‘imaginative truth’ inside and outside the book have different aesthetic and political meanings, but with the rise of disinformation and populism, the reason/emotion binary has been pitched in confusing ways. Possible areas for discussion: progression in empirical and ethical approaches to knowledge; gender, affect, knowledge and power; the ethics/politics of emotion; and lying and fiction-writing themes. Reader positioning and fieldwork with child readers are also of interest.

Katharine Jones Sullivan is a visiting scholar from the Committee Research Office, Canberra, Australia. Her journal publications include ‘Getting rid of children’s literature’, based on her doctoral thesis, Other Literatures and Issues in Criticism, Theory and Philosophy: Reintroducing a Critical Approach to Child Literature. Past research has been supported through fellowships at the University of Canberra and study leave at the Australian National University. She leads research teams in her professional work.

This talk is part of the Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge series.

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