An academic conference this past weekend considered how fiction, particularly the darker fiction of recent years, might affect the brains of teenagers and children. Here is a quick overview of what was being discussed:
The trend for darkness and dystopia in children’s literature reflects concerns in the wider, adult world, Nikolajeva [the conference organizer] said. A hundred years ago, books for kids were dominated with stories about boys having adventures and girls finding husbands; then, from the 1950s to the 1970s, the themes were emerging sexuality and parental conflict.
Inside the teenage brain, synapses are breaking and reforming, and the chemistry keeps changing. Teenagers can’t make decisions in the same way adults can, Nikolajeva said, and she noted that authors, filmmakers and game developers have a moral obligation to make sure that their works contain some positive ethic.
As the Post writer notes, this sounds like an interesting conference. In general, narratives can have a powerful effect. If children’s literature has indeed turned darker, this could have implications for future adults.
And I’d be curious to know how people at the conference defined the “positive ethic” that Nikolajeva suggests should be included in children’s literature.
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