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A Bug’s Life: Creeping and Crawling through Children’s Literature

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A Bug's Life
Date of Event
4th November 2017
Last Booking Date for this Event
28th October 2017
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Description

The Smithsonian estimates that there are 10 quintillion insects alive at any one time. Although not quite as populous in the pages of children’s fiction, insects are nevertheless surprisingly common characters. From James’s peach-bound travellers to Wall-e’s cockroach companion, insects abound in stories for children. Yet while literary representations of the wider animal kingdom have garnered significant scholarly interest, there has been little attention paid to the anthropomorphized insect, perhaps in keeping with the rather awkward and contradictory cultural place of six-legged animals. Insects are essential to the maintenance of a functioning ecosystem but they can engender significant anxiety in humans. That might explain why so few young people choose to be entomologists; they ‘are like endangered mammals such as tigers and polar bears … on the verge of extinction’ (Leather, 2007). In the face of an undervalued subject, what part does – or can – children’s literature play in introducing children to the wonders of insect life and in educating them in their importance? Are our conflicted associations with insects formed in the spaces of the classroom and childhood stories? Is insect life neglected in school curricula on the one hand and too unrealistically anthropomorphised in fiction on the other?

This one-day symposium explores the representation of insects in literature for young readers from a variety of angles and includes a guest appearance by Maya Leonard, the author of the popular children’s book Beetle Boy.

Lunch is included.

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