Seventh International Conference on Literary Juvenilia

Literary Juvenilia, material imagination and 'things'

Young writers ranging from Pope, Chatterton and Burns in the eighteenth century, to Austen, the Brontës, Eliot and Dickens in the nineteenth, and Edith Wharton, C.S. Lewis, Judith Wright, Margaret Atwood, and J.K. Rowling in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have found inspiration and example in the everyday context of their writing practice—in a materiality related to their physical, social and cultural worlds and in the material conditions of their play, learning, imitation and critique. This conference explored the material culture of juvenilia (youthful writing up to the age of twenty): the relationship between ‘things’ and literary imagination and practice.

Held virtually at UNSW Sydney from 20–22 July 2022, this conference provided a broad intellectual forum for academics, postgraduates, members of literary societies and the interested public. There were also dedicated sessions on the teaching of juvenilia and on the juvenilia of the Brontës, especially that of Anne Brontë, sponsored by the Australian Brontë Association. 

Keynote speakers

David C. Hanson, Professor and Head, Department of English, Co-editor of Nineteenth Century Studies, Southeastern Louisiana University. He specialises in the study of the creative process and how texts evolve from composition through stages of publication; and is editor of The Early Ruskin Manuscripts1826–1842, a digital edition of the early writings of influential art critic John Ruskin.

His paper was titled "John does not know there is any difference in putting things on paper from saying them": Materiality in John Ruskin's Juvenilia and Early Letters. David Hanson argued that, contrary to his mother's opinion, John Ruskin's juvenilia does reveal differences between a discursive familiarity, which Ruskin adapted from the "conversation" genre by Letitia Barbauld and Maria Edgeworth, and "things on paper" imitated from a calligraphy manual and the typography of books he owned. In personal letters and fictionalized conversations, he used a spontaneous and playful style, which subverts rules, such as those found in letter manuals. However, his fancy calligraphy and imitation of type set constraints. Furthermore, material aspects of Ruskin's juvenilia appear to originate most deeply in mourning and loss. He made "things on paper" for his father to carry with him on his travels, and these were expressive of his sense of loss and desire for his father's return – returns that, in the case of beloved cousins, never came about. Ruled margins in the juvenilia both define fate and keep something safe.

Beverly Taylor, Professor and Head, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She specialises in Victorian literature and culture, especially poetry and women novelists including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Brontës. 

In celebration of the 2020 Bicentenary of Anne Brontë, Professor Taylor will spoke on “Becoming Acton Bell”. Of Anne Brontë's thirty-seven known drawings, only nineteen were executed before she became the Ingham governess in 1839, when she was nineteen, and represent what we may think of as her juvenilia. And of her fifty-nine known poems, only eight represent her work prior to her nineteenth birthday. In addition to the poems and drawings, we have only five extant letters and two diary papers by Anne, in addition to three diary papers written by Emily. While New Critics and contemporary formal critics may find this lack an actual plus—there's less for them to ignore, less extraneous information to get in the way of the analysis—students of literary juvenilia might find themselves wishing for more context. Acknowledging these limitations, Professor Taylor explored the juvenile writings and drawings, in particular thinking of what they might forecast about her adult novels. Her talk suggested characteristics of Anne's worldview, artistic renderings, and writings evident in her juvenile productions. In studying her juvenilia, we catch sight of Anne Brontë becoming Acton Bell.

Trevor Cairney OAM, Honorary Professor, University of Sydney; Life Fellow UNSW. He has been a teacher, researcher, Dean of Education, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) and College Head. He has written widely on pedagogy, early learning, language, children's literature, comprehension, and family literacy. He also writes the well-known blog "Literacy, Families & Learning" which has a large international following.

Professor Cairney spoke on “The Relationship of ‘Story’, Meaning and Imagination to the World”. In his paper, he quotes D.W. Harding’s statement (1937) that "reading, like daydreaming and gossiping, is a means to offer or be offered symbolic representations of life" ––a comment that does not reflect a linear relationship to one's world. Early reading and writing are intertwined with children's explorations and actions, as they imagine futures and express meanings that matter. This talk focused on the interrelationship of children's early experiences of literature, writing and life, as they explore their material world to construct and communicate meanings that matter.

Conference organisers

Christine Alexander, Emeritus Scientia Professor, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Chris Danta, Associate Professor, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Donna Couto, Administration & Assistant Editor, Juvenilia Press, UNSW

Call for Papers

Conference Program

Abstracts and Bios

Sixth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia

On July 5, 2018, some thirty scholars from around the world assembled at picturesque St. John’s College, in the shadow of Durham Cathedral, for “Minority Voices,” the Sixth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia. Expertly organized by Dr. Gillian Boughton-Willmore, the conference included scholars at all career stages, presenting papers on child writers and artists ranging from eighteenth-century Britain to late twentieth-century Sarajevo.

After a buffet dinner, the scholarly activities opened with a keynote by Christine Alexander, Professor Emerita at the University of New South Wales. Her engaging lecture, entitled “A Habit of Writing: Charlotte Brontë’s Juvenilia, Editing, and Print Culture,” introduced us to the history of the study of juvenilia and examined the Brontës’ work in the larger context of the period’s print culture. Her discussion of young Charlotte’s imitative and sometimes satirical engagement with the conventions of books and magazines was a fascinating testament to the sophistication of many young writers, and the potential they offer for scholarly study. The keynote was fittingly followed by the launch of the new Juvenilia Press edition of Patrick Branwell Brontë's The Pirate , edited by Christine Alexander with Joetta Harty and Benjamin Drexler.

The following two days were filled with exciting presentations, including a special thematic panel on the Brontës. As the field of juvenilia studies grows and matures, it has expanded to include new genres, themes, and analytical approaches, which offered energizing opportunities for cross-pollination and discussion. Non-British child writers had a significant presence at the conference, for example, and historical and art historical perspectives—though a minority—were also well represented. Visual artist Eleanor Bowen also generously shared her own juvenilia with the group, discussing the origins and evolution of her style, and the important role that artistic expression played in her childhood and youth.

In what has become a tradition at Literary Juvenilia conferences, the meeting also included a fabulous Conference Dinner and a handful of excursions to explore local culture and history. This year, Dr. Boughton-Willmore organized a visit to Durham Cathedral’s “Open Treasure” exhibit, which led us through the Cathedral’s history as a monastery and pilgrimage site. Sunday afternoon was reserved for a small group excursion to the Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth, where visitors were introduced in person to some of the original Brontë juvenilia manuscripts, expertly interpreted by Professor Alexander.

The community of scholars engaged in juvenilia studies continues to grow, and the conference closed with the annual meeting of the International Society for Literary Juvenilia, led by the organization’s chair, Dr. Rob Breton. Of particular note was the launch of the inaugural volume of the Journal of Juvenilia Studies, beautifully edited and produced by Dr. Lesley Peterson. The juvenilia studies community is excitedly awaiting its next conference, which will take place in Sydney, Australia in 2020.

BLOG Durham Lecture 2018

Fifth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Florence, Alabama

As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled "w-a-t-e-r" in Helen's free hand…. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face.

On April 5, 1887, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Anne Sullivan wrote these words to describe the moment at which her pupil, Helen Keller, “learned,” as she put it, “that everything has a name”: the moment when Helen discovered a universe of knowledge contained in a small stream of water. Helen’s drop of water was a microcosm and the inspiration for the Fifth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia held at the University of North Alabama (UNA) on 15-17 June 2017.

This year’s conference was organized by Dr. Lesley Peterson (UNA Department of English) and Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee (UNA Department of History) under the auspices of the UNA Centre for British Studies with support from the Office of the Provost and the UNA College of Arts and Sciences. Scholars from five countries on three continents converged for the first time in North America for a juvenilia conference with a variety of papers and events.

The conference’s first session was a brilliant exploration of the work of Branwell Brontë by Christine Alexander (University of New South Wales); on the following day, the Keynote Speaker, Lorna Clark (Carleton University), provided a stimulating examination of the juvenilia of the Burney Family. Presentations on visual juvenilia by Beverly Taylor (University of North Carolina) and Laurie Langbauer (University of North Carolina) expanded the discussion of juvenilia to the visual and creative arts. Judith Pike (Salisbury University) and Catherine James (University of Alabama) brought marginalized populations into the conversation with presentations on disability and Native American writers. Each panel inspired lively debate, and the scholarly discussions continued during both the Opening Reception at Historic Rogers Hall on UNA’s campus and the conference dinner hosted by the Tennessee Valley Arts Association Museum in downtown Tuscumbia, Alabama. Conference attendees were enchanted by a production of “The Miracle Worker” at Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s birthplace, where the story of Helen and her microcosmic world, from which the conference took its first inspiration, was fully realized.

Conference organizers, Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee and Dr. Lesley Peterson, along with co-editor Leigh Thompson Stanfield and student editors, Emily Cater, Catherine James, and Melissa Thornton launched the Juvenilia Press’s latest edition, O Ye Jigs and Juleps by Virginia Cary Hudson. Over fifty conference attendees and UNA community members enjoyed a video message from Virginia’s granddaughter and biographer on the fascinating adult life and publication of her work in the 1960s as well as recitations of selected passages read eloquently by the student editors.

The final session was the formal inauguration of the International Society for Literary Juvenilia with Rob Breton (Nipissing University) and David Owen (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) elected as Chair and Vice-Chair of the new society. The new society officially endorsed the next gatherings for Durham in 2018 and Sydney in 2020, and voted to start a new scholarly journal, The Journal of Juvenilia, with Lesley Peterson (UNA) as Editor.

Fourth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Barcelona, Spain

The Fourth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia was held in the Faculty of Philosophy & Arts at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain, in June 2015. The conference was organized by Dr David Owen, who lectures at this university, under the auspices of the UAB’s Department of English and German Studies and with the assistance and support of the Juvenilia Press.

This was the first time that the conference had been held outside the English-speaking world, and as such represented a great opportunity to move into new territory and to publicise both the Press and—more generally—literary juvenilia studies to distinct ambits.

The main theme of the conference was The Child Writer and Poetry; to this end, the conference was privileged to count on two plenary sessions focussing on this topic. The first was given by Professor Laurie Langbauer (University of North Carolina), with a lecture titled “The Juvenile Tradition”; the second was by Dr Rob Breton, (Nipissing University) whose lecture was “Needless Alarms: Performance in John Ruskin’s Early Poetry”.

An intense, engaging and highly motivating two days’ programme provided a broad range of discussion on issues of literary juvenilia. The conference also provided a presentation of the Juvenilia Press edition of Hannah More’s A Search After Happiness, with a dramatic reading of the text provided fundamentally by a contingent of speakers from the University of North Alabama under the expert and enthusiastic guidance of Professor Lesley Peterson, and the presentation by Professor Christine Alexander of her latest publication, Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings (Penguin Classics). In addition to these presentations and readings, there was a video showing of Maria Edgeworth’s The Double Disguise (for further related information, see here.

In addition to these aspects, and perhaps of still greater significance, a general meeting held at the end of the conference saw the agreement to establish a Literary Juvenilia Studies Association (the formal name is still pending a final decision), with founder members Professor Lesley Peterson and Dr Jeffrey Bibbee of the University of North Alabama; Professor Christine Alexander (UNSW and the Juvenilia Press); Professor Juliet McMaster (University of Alberta and the Juvenilia Press); DR Gillian Boughton-Wilmore (University of Durham) and Dr David Owen (UAB). This association will foster and support research and publication initiatives within literary juvenilia studies, and hopes to represent a consolidated and permanent body through which to channel future conferences and related projects.

As with Durham in 2013, the Barcelona conference attested very fully to the vigorous state of literary juvenilia studies, to its very solid uptake by a number of young researchers, and to the many and varied developments that this area is now beginning to see.

(Report by Dr David Owen, Department of English and German Studies, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Third International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Durham, UK

Literary Juvenilia - Call for Papers

The third international conference on Literary Juvenilia was held in St Mary’s College, University of Durham, in September 2013, organised by Dr Gillian Boughton-Wilmore. In her keynote speech at the conference, Professor Christine Alexander reviewed the state of recent and contemporary literary juvenilia studies and effectively set down a series of possible pathways for future ambits of enquiry. Several of these areas were raised and debated in the papers presented during the conference itself, and attest to the robust state of current academic interest in the field. In light of the success of the Durham conference, we are now exploring the possibility of publishing a version of the conference papers in a scholarly volume to be edited by David Owen and Lesley Peterson, provisionally titled Literary Juvenilia in the Twenty-First Century.

(Report by Dr David Owen, Department of English and German Studies, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

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