This August, I made my way into my first International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) Conference at the University of Worcester in the UK. Very nervous about presenting my paper on the presentation and influence of children on the Arabian Nights in the past century, I had been editing and reediting my presentation up to two nights before. After successfully persuading my friends and relatives to listen to me explain theory and history, I received enough positive feedback to give both them and myself some peace of mind.
(with my Cambridge colleague, Clementine Beauvais (right))
The five day conference went by quickly, listening to talks, papers, poetry, and story telling. I presented my paper: A Historic Analysis of the Role of Children in Arabian Nights Folklore, where I discussed retellings of certain tales in the Arabian Nights in modern publishing. I compared books from popular English literature publishers in the UK and the US to their counterparts in Egypt and Syria.
My research led me to five essential findings:
- Children are ‘told’ a story, supporting Maria Nikoljeva’s findings that adults make children’s literature about pedagogy.
- Children are encouraged to follow a ‘coming of age’ plot line, where the child is always expected to progress into becoming an adult. Again, this shows how the adult writer expects children to act.
- The Western child is encouraged to read alone, while the Eastern seems expected to read with an adult. This is clear in the format of the book
- The Western child omits religious references from culture, while the Eastern child has kept Muslim culture within the Nights retellings
- And one striking difference in all versions – children no longer have a storyteller. Scheherazade has disappeared.
After this successful conference, I look forward to attending many more!