TLG 16.2 Introduction

Frame of Reference

Introduction - New Media: new artefact or new way of looking?

David Beagley

It took around 300 years from when the first printing presses in Europe produced books for the popular market for their major revolutionary impact to be felt in that age of public informed discourse that we call "The Enlightenment". Of course there had been publishing bombshells along the way, not least being the translation of the Christian Bible and liturgy into English and other local languages. But the real revolution came when it could be safely assumed that enough people could actually buy and read the books: when Swift could release the satire of Gulliver's Travels, when Voltaire and Franklin and Rousseau could challenge the public with their new ideas about society, when Diderot could publish his Encyclopedie, and when Newbery could market books specifically for children. Society changed.

We are in the throes of another communication revolution every bit as potent as that arrival of printing in Europe in the 15th century and it is likely to cause as much social upheaval. Yet we are only a few decades into it! There are some of us who can actually remember what it was like with no internet, with no Facebook or Twitter to follow the minutiae of other's lives, no online shopping to find exactly that bargain and have it delivered to the door, no Google to check a detail immediately, when we wrote letters and waited weeks for a reply, and when we carefully scanned the index pages of the few journals to which our library happened to subscribe for the latest news in our areas of study.

This issue of The Looking Glass is all about change. It takes a look at how these sudden changes in media and communication formats are impacting on our lives and attitudes, and it offers some thoughts about where they may take us.

But first, we have a change of our own to introduce! It is with great pride that we would like to welcome our new column A Tortoise's Tale to our family, with its editor, acclaimed teacher and commentator Jill P. May, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University. During her distinguished carer, Jill taught children’s and young adult literature, picture book art, storytelling, and multicultural literature from 1970 at Purdue University, and was also faculty in Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies. During summers, she often taught at other institutions, including Bank Street College (1988-89) and Hollins University (1994, 1997, 2000, 2002). She served as an Invited Scholar at several colleges, and in 2008 she received the Anne Devereaux Jordan Award from the Children’s Literature Association for “instrumentally shaping the direction of professional organizations in the field.”

Jill will develop A Tortoise's Tale as a forum for articles on classroom and other pedagogical engagement with children's literature. This could be teaching observations and ideas, explorations of children's responses and meaning making, or the creation of texts for and by children in school and learning settings. The first Tortoise article is Amanda von der Lohe's "Old Jim Won’t Be a N*gger No More: Ramifications of Using Censored Versions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the Classroom". Building on the capacity to make wholesale and immediate changes to a text, especially as online texts are becoming more common, von der Lohe argues that trying to change one detail often only creates another problem, and that child readers deserve more than watered down versions.

In our Alice's Academy article, Caroline McAlister takes a journey from Lady Macbeth, through Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Editha and Roald Dahl's Matilda, to Hermione Grainger, to consider the power of female characters and their stories, especially through their reading. This then sets up the New Media element of fan-fiction - a genre currently dominated by female reader/writers. As several other articles in this issue suggest, this emerging form of public expression has the potential to shake our traditional concepts of author, reader, and critic to their very cores!

Three Jabberwocky articles each raise intriguing questions about online and multimedia stories and commentary. Luma Balaa reports on her research with Lebanese school students on their interpretations of the fairy tale reversioning of Hoodwinked: the movie. Apart from the obvious cross-cultural elements now inherent in our globalised online culture, the alternatives available in cross-media raise challenges for teachers and other adult mediators in understanding how the child readers interpret the stories.

Stephanie di Palma also reports on some research in her "Blogging or Believing? Do themes presented by scholarly discourse correlate with the casual conversations of people through the world wide web?" Di Palma compared what learned critics were discussing about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series through their authoritative publications, with what the fans and bloggers were writing on the fan-sites. She raises some very pertinent questions about what, exactly, makes a critic or an article authoritative and another not, and how these are highlighted by the readily available avenues of websites.

In "To Be a Mighty Pirate: Guybrush Threepwood, Indiana Jones and a misspent youth of unintentional learning" Anastasia Marie Salter takes us on a journey through the early years of online storytelling through electronic gaming. Called into question here is the frequent assuption that screen games are sedentary, mind-numbing and uncreative. Salter considers the learning about culture, technology and self that can take place and looks to the effects we might expect on the generation of 'digital natives' growing up around us.

Frame of Reference gives me the opportunity for an editorial essay on my own recent forays into the digital world through the podcasts of iTunes U. What began as a simple support tool for my own classes, recordings of typical university lectures, is now freely available to the world. My classes of dozens sitting in front of me are now joined by hundreds of thousands of listeners all around the world and I am just a little daunted! However, more important are the questions about education, analysis and academic credibility that such immediate and wide-reaching contact brings. Bakhtin, Habermas and McLuhan are helping me in the quest to understand where it might go, but it is proving to be a very interesting journey!

Our review this issue is of collections of essays about the two blockbuster YA text/movie series of the last few years: Twilight and The Hunger Games. While textual and narrative analysis is certainly a key part of the essays in these books, both also explore the variations in the different media of text and film, and the impact of pop culture in the electonic world of their audiences.

While I certainly hope you enjoy this issue of The Looking Glass, I would also hope that the questions that these articles raise help you find some interesting ways of looking at our changing world of media, even some "new perspectives in children's literature".

PS: and as for why it is The Tortoise's Tale ... go there and see!


David Beagley
General Editor - The Looking Glass

Volume 16, Issue 2, The Looking Glass,September/October 2012

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680