Speaker Series

Victoria Ford Smith, “A Nasty, Biting Thing: The Wayward Child as Collaborator”

October 8th, 12pm-1pm CST, Zoom


The stories we tell about young people’s creative partnerships with adults discipline children, insisting they behave in ways that please us. We imagine Alice Liddell eagerly asking Lewis Carroll for a story or Peter Llewelyn Davies raucously playing pirates while J. M. Barrie penned Peter Pan. But what happens when children are not such docile partners? In this talk, Smith considers wayward collaborating children: young people whose collaborations with adults might be presented through familiar narratives of childhood but whose work cannot be contained by those scripts.

As case studies, Smith will focus on three intergenerational collaborations forged over art: the “Nursery Nonsense” feature in the popular Aunt Judy’s Magazine, which invited young artists to illustrate (and undermine) stories narrated by their parents; the 1897 nonsense bestiary Animal Land Where There Are No People, a collection of grotesque creatures created by four-year-old Sybil Corbet and recorded by her mother, Katharine; and Flora, a 1919 collection of sometimes-subversive drawings by child artist Pamela Bianco, accompanied by poems by Walter de la Mare. All three illuminate shifting ideas of childhood and creativity circulating at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. More importantly, they challenge how we as scholars typically approach the place of the child in cultural production and children’s ability to acknowledge, and negotiate, those roles.


Victoria Ford Smith is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches children’s and British literature and culture. Her book — Between Generations: Collaborative Authorship in the Golden Age of Children’s Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2017) won the Children’s Literature Association Book Award. Her research interests include child agency, child-produced culture, and authorship and book studies.

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