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The Professor in Children's Literature: A Corpus Based Analysis of Expertise in Books Marketed to a Young Audience

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How is academia portrayed in children’s literature?

This talk reports on an ambitious survey of fictional professors in texts marketed towards children. Professors are overwhelmingly white and male, tending to be elderly scientists, who fall into three stereotypes: the vehicle to explain scientific facts, the baffled genius, and the evil madman. By the late 20th Century, the stereotype of the male, mad, muddlehead, called Professor SomethingDumb, is formed in humorous yet pejorative fashion.

This research provides a publishing history of the role of academics in children’s literature, questioning the book culture which promotes the enforcement of stereotypes regarding intellectual expertise in children’s media, while also discussing appropriate corpus-based analysis, and how the current digital information environment supports such an approach to literary study.

Melissa Terras is the Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, leading digital aspects of research within CAHSS , and Director of Research in the new Edinburgh Futures Institute. Her research focuses on the use of computational techniques to enable research in the arts, humanities, and wider cultural heritage and information environment that would otherwise be impossible. You can generally find her on twitter @melissaterras.

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

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