Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ethics and Children's Literature

I have spent my whole adult life simultaneously pursuing three different careers: 1) children's book author; 2) children's literature scholar; and 3) philosopher professor specializing in teaching and writing about ethics. The older I got, the more the three began to converge: I used children's literature examples in my Intro to Ethics class; I published scholarly articles about ethical themes in children's literature; I gave my fictional characters ethical challenges to face.

When I came to the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University in the fall of 2011, my three professional loves finally melded into one. I taught a course on my beloved Jean-Jacques Rousseau (himself a novelist and theorist of childhood) for the Philosophy Department, but also taught children's literature (for the first time in my life) for the English Department. I organized a symposium on Ethics and Children's Literature, where philosophers, children's literature scholars, and children's book authors came together for three idyllic days, sharing our papers and talking in the beautiful setting of the Prindle Institute.

From that symposium grew a book, Ethics and Children's Literature, under the encouragement of brilliant editor Ann Donahue at Ashgate Press, who published it in Ashgate's "Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present" series. (The cover image is an illustration from an early edition of Rousseau's Emile.) Making the book was a labor of love, for it is a tangible representation of the union of my three careers, brought together in one volume.

This week I learned that the book just won the Children's Literature Association's Edited Book Award for an "outstanding edited collection of essays in children's literature, history, and criticism," selected from a field of almost forty titles published in 2014. Earlier I also learned that one of the chapters in the book, "The Rights and Wrongs of Anthropomorphism in Pictures Books," by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, won the Children's Literature Association's Article Award for the best scholarly article published in 2014. Lisa is my dear, dear friend, and now she and I will sit together at the awards banquet at the June conference, held this year in Columbus, Ohio.

Few things in my life have made me happier than this recognition, from peers I respect, eminent scholars in a field of study to which I have blissfully devoted the past two and a half decades of my life. I think of Marmee's final line at the end of Little Women: "Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!" I'm sure other happiness, and sorrow, will come my way. But this is a week I'm going to remember with great fondness for the rest of my days.


  1. Congratulations, Claudia!

  2. Thanks! I'm still hugging myself with happiness...

  3. Congratulations! I have started to seek out your articles, especially ones related to Alcott (though the one about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is fascinating too--an angle I had never thought of!).