Literary theory, Research, the philosophy of childhood and childrens literature. It is easy to become so caught up in the scholarly side of things that we forget what effect children’s literature can have. Reading, especially for children or of children’s literature means entering into a partnership with the story by which the reader agrees to offer their suspension of belief in exchange for admittance into an imaginative world. It is experiential and sensual. What meaning the reader derives from a particular text has more to do with the nature of that partnership than with the intention of the author.
My area of interest in childrens literature therefore could be said to be the metaphysics of child land, child-land being both the wellspring from which children’s stories emerge and the actual geography, real or imagined to which the story belongs; This can be divided into two separate but complimentary fields of inquiry; the Cosmology (totality of being i.e.; the universe as it is understood and experienced) of imagination and the Ontological (the nature of being) nature of the subject matter. For example. Lewis Carroll created Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Wonderland is one region within the larger universe of child-land, being an imagined place made up by Carroll for the amusement of his child friends, for his own personal agenda’s and as a mirror of his own real world.
The Cosmology of Wonderland is the study of the attributes of that one specific region called Wonderland as well as its place within the larger construct of the whole of child-land i.e.; Wonderland in relation to The River Bank of the Wind in the Willows and the 100 Acre Wood.
The Ontology of Alice in Wonderland deals with Alice’s relationship to Wonderland and by extension her relationship to the larger child-land as it relates to the nature of her identity and her perceptions and thus the readers perceptions of the identity of the characters that populate their world.
Conventional Physics is destructive, taking the universe apart piece by piece with the aim of answer the universal questions of existence, where do we come from and where are we. Metaphysic’s is constructive, looking at the universe as a single identifiable whole and seeking to answer where we fit in that whole. It asks what are we today and what will be tomorrow. Physics is a when / where proposition while metaphysics is a what / why proposition.
Children’s literature deals with these metaphysical questions.
What is existence, i.e. what does it mean for a being to be?
How do the properties of an object relate to the object itself?
How many levels of existence or ontological levels are there? And what constitutes a ‘level’?
What constitutes the identity of an object?
When does an object go out of existence, as opposed to merely changing? This question is pertinent to the growth of a child. Does a child go out of existence when he becomes and adult or does the child merely change into an adult? The former would be a case of rebirth while the latter would transformation.