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Strengthening interdisciplinary research of children’s literature criticism

Author  :  ZHANG JIE     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-01-10

In recent years, the development of children’s literature in China has accelerated, with fruitful results. Dec. 14–15th, the Seminar on Children’s Literature and Children’s Reading Education and the opening ceremony of Shandong Research Institute under the China Society for the Studies of Children’s Literature were held in Jinan, Shandong Province. Scholars at the seminar exchanged views centering on children’s literature, including interdisciplinary studies.

Children’s literature refers to literary works that are created to be intelligible, enjoyable and appreciable to children. Chen Hui, a professor from the School of Chinese Language and Literature at Beijing Normal University, said that with a rich variety of content and expressions, children’s literature focuses on the real lives and inner worlds of children. As a core resource of reading for children, the field plays a significant role in improving the language competence of children and their appreciation of literature and art.

Zhuang Zhenghua, president of the China Society for the Studies of Children’s Literature, said that since the reform and opening up, especially after entering the 21st century, the quantity of China’s children’s literature has experienced rapid growth. However, it should be noted that there is still a large gap in this field between China and other nations. This gap is reflected in the current situation in which there are many introduced works in circulation but few original ones, lots of mediocre content but few fine works, and extensive creation but a lack of research in children’s literature criticism.

Cao Wenxuan, a professor from the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University, said that with the deepening of study in the fields of philosophy of childhood and child psychology, we are increasingly aware of the fundamental differences in the psychological structures and cognitive styles between children and adults. With the aim of reflecting the inner world of children, children’s literature has already become a systematic discipline worldwide.

Zhu Ziqiang, a professor from the College of Liberal Arts, Journalism and Communication at Ocean University of China, said that when mentioning children’s literature, we talk about its role in a sense of cultivating emotions, imagination, morality and values, but rarely in developing rational sense. In fact, both the activities of creation and reading in children’s literature should be under rational guidance, especially considering that they are constructive mental activities that require the integration of rational and emotional thinking.

Compared with the prosperity of the creation and publishing of children’s literature, the study of children’s literature criticism is much weaker in both breadth and depth. When dealing with the problems in the field of children’s literature, more attention should be paid to theoretical criticism.

Hu Lina, an associate research fellow from the Children’s Culture Research Institute at Zhejiang Normal University, said that before and after the May 4th Movement in 1919, the pioneers involved began to take children’s literature as an issue common to children and to society with interdisciplinary research that includes pedagogy, psychology and sociology. At present, we should continue the tradition of interdisciplinary research and explore suitable multidisciplinary theories and methods of criticism to stimulate the vitality of children’s literature criticism.

Zhu also suggested that we should try to break down barriers between children’s literature and other disciplines. We should first actively integrate into related disciplines and, at the same time, embrace research resources of related disciplines with a sense of openness to form a “community of children’s literature” combined by interdisciplinary forces.

The potential for psychoanalysis in fairy tales has given birth to research in the contemporary psychology of fairy tales. Shu Wei, a professor from the Institute of Children’s Literature Studies at the School of Foreign Languages at Tianjin University of Technology, said that psychoanalysts use fairy tales as their research materials to explore the inner world of human beings and to reveal the causes of the importance of fairy tales. Fairy tales have become an important research resource for the humanities and social sciences including culture, literature, pedagogy, psychology and anthropology.

Children’s literature has an aesthetic and educational nature, and it should take the meeting of the deep spiritual needs of children as its ultimate goal. Xu Yan, a professor from the College of Liberal Arts, Journalism and Communication at Ocean University of China, said that there is a serious “ecological crisis” in today’s children’s reading, with a great many children’s books lacking in aesthetic value and full of low-quality content. In this context, whether writers of children’s literature can cultivate children’s reading to a higher level matters not only to the development of children’s literature, but also to the future of the nation.

Editor: Yu Hui

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