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Online seminar with Professor Michael Rosen (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Emma Bell (Brighton University).

When libraries turn into grass, rivers, mud and forests, what can Marxism offer to the critical study of children's literature?

The Contemporary Marxism Research Group is hosting this seminar featuring award-winning poet and former children's laureate Professor Michael Rosen, and English literature/art history scholar and a lone full-time working parent Dr Emma Bell.

Children's literature has a special role to play within nurture, education and therefore within social reproduction. Does this mean, Prof Rosen asks, that children's literature is inevitably conservative? Or conversely is it inevitably subversive because it gives agency to people who are un-powerful and un-voiced?

A good deal of attention has been given to books that have been seen as racist, heterosexist, ableist, colonialist, classist and anti-collectivist. Conversely Marxism can champion those books that challenge hegemonic ideas (eg Little Rebels Award) or reveal lines of contradiction (Macherey, Jameson).

Dr Bell explores making the future through story-telling: children’s lives and literature in contemporary Britain. She offers her own perspective on the life of children's literature in the school library, book-sharing coops, library closures and the lifeline that are 10p books in charity shops amidst media hysteria round ‘woke’ children’s literature and the myth of ‘cancelling’ classics.

The prevalence of ‘need to teach kids’ empathy, sharing and tolerance is exposed as often naturalising selfishness, supremacy, and greed; not least by suggesting that sharing is an unnatural impulse. Is sharing not caring after all? Go ask the bear!