Reading Child[ren] of Words and Pictures in Picture Books for Children: Three Essays on Picture Book Research
By Dr Anindita Roy
Abstract PhD Thesis Anindita Roy
Congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Anindita Roy for passing her viva on 27-06-2018 with her thesis on ‘Reading Child[ren] of Words and Pictures in Picture Books for Children: Three Essays on Picture Book Research’. External Examiner: Dr Emma Francis of the University of Warwick and Internal Examiner Dr Neil Cocks, supervisor Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein.
Abstract of thesis
[The abstract as follows here is a revised version, different to that originally included in the thesis, which follows below:] ‘My thesis closely looks at the issues involved in concepts around childhood as an identity, and around visual literacy, stories, language, and development. Mainstream research into picture books has been primarily based on abstractions about children’s responses to pictures and texts in terms of their modes of reading and visual literacy, or through the lens of the child as the “implied” reader, that is, as the “child reader”, therefore, and, often defining readership as children’s books.
Despite many postulations about childhood and children’s learning and comprehension, these are heavily reliant on “common sense” assumptions, and such constructions, in fact, remain one of the most challenging areas to understand and is at the heart of designing pedagogical theories and practices, and for defining identity. As my thesis demonstrates by closely analysing three key texts of picture book theory, core difficulties arise in scholarship when criticism relies on “common sense” based, and as such, pre-deterministic constructions.
One the one hand, my thesis analyses what is at stake in the different critics’ views, demonstrating how different concepts of genre, style, perception, consciousness, language, text and pictures, produce the different views of how children respond to picture books, re-thinking the implications of influence, readership, and their design through the lens of Judith Butler’s performativity. On the other hand, the thesis also looks at the different under-lying world-views and philosophies that produce the differing critical assessments, looking again at highly influential models of language philosophy, for instance, the classic work of Ferdinand De Saussure, and child development in relation to different models of perception and consciousness. I also elaborate on the consequences of different art historical and typographical views on ideas of the multimodal and multi-medial, further linking their differences to the under-lying world-views. Finally, my thesis offers a reading of a classic children’s picture book that demonstrates a different way of reading, which does not rest on extant assumptions but instead works to raise questions about them and their consequences. My thesis, therefore, develops a radical questioning of existing assumptions about childhood and what constitutes childhood as an identity in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability and other diversities, and the relationship of these ideas of childhood to critical assumptions about children’s responses to texts and pictures.’
[The abstract as originally included in the thesis is as follows:] I challenge the notion of an accusative child/ children from within its locative constructions through words and picture in picture books as an instrumental for children. I do so by looking at words and pictures in picture books for children in order to read the claims that construct the format of the picture books and what the format implies, as picture books for children. Such an offering for children, is of intentionality within an apriori constructiving of an implied reader, and as I read it, also in turn producing the implied reader, in this case, the child/children within its intentionality. This thesis, itself a production, is of reading such processes that produce ideas of difference, and as I argue, from within binary constructivism. I am suspicious of such constructivising of differences and as I read perspective, what is at stake here is that these constructions of differences constructivise a formulaic fixity, an intrinsic, in this case, a picture book, and within its formulaic expressions through claimed differences as words and pictures, its function towards an implied reader, picture books for children, eventually and tautologically thematising the form and its formulation into a naturalised site of meaning making. This also constructivises an intrinsic child/ children. I challenge such constructivised naturalising, reading these differences, not as pre-deterministic apriori predicatehood, especially, within the constructions of differences as words and pictures, readerly gaps, and the child/ children, but as categorical assertions. I do this via arguments surrounding multimodality and ironic counterpoint. As categorical assertions of a specific structuration, the ordering is formulated from within sites as author-text-reader. From within my discomfort of such intrinsic sites that constructivise identity as a relation of equivalence, I read these instead as citational and present my argument through the scope of Butler’s performativity and through the textual practice of Derridian deconstruction. As a citational, these categorical assertions performativise, for children, whether in tapping resources as literacy, cognitive development, diversity, etc., and only in its functioning is of the form, therefore, formulaic in and of performativity in perspective, I submit.
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