Literature for children and young adults (YA) is among the few growth sectors in international publishing, with adaptations of these texts among the biggest cinema releases each year.
“Children’s and young adult literature (fiction, poetry, graphic novels and nonfiction) has enormous influence on young people and global cultures more broadly because it is concerned with the same questions that matter to young people – who am I really and how do I operate in this world or any other?” says author and creative writing lecturer, Dr Kelly Gardiner.
The way these fictions are produced, the issues they provoke, the reception by those who read or view them, and the sheer scale of the industrial phenomenon are the subject of widespread debate on social media, in writing and creator communities, and in mainstream media.
While scholarship in the field is still emerging, here and around the world, researchers are closely connected to industry, writing and reading communities, helping lead public conversations about identity, gender, racism, intersectionality, public activism, censorship, and many issues directly affecting young people.
At La Trobe, our work in this area crosses disciplines, creative forms and critical approaches.
This research area, led by Dr Gardiner, involves a high proportion of postgraduate researchers – in recent years La Trobe has attracted some of the country’s leading authors for young adults as PhD candidates.
“The active cluster of postgraduates includes award-winning authors Amie Kaufman, Simmone Howell, Zana Fraillon, leading YA advocate and writer Bec Kavanagh,” she says. “We hold regular symposia and masterclasses, in collaboration with colleagues at Monash University, Deakin University and University of Technology Sydney.”
“Some of the questions we are currently investigating include the ways in which young women’s identity is constructed through text and cinema; the creation of, and impact of, heroines in literature for young people; and representations and performance of gender and identities in cultural works for children and young people.”
“This work matters, and it matters very much right now,” adds Dr Gardiner, “because of the profound impact of a wide range of cultural products, from games to blockbuster movies, from adventure stories to homemade zines, on young people and their identities.”