Special Issue of The Lion and the Unicorn: Twenty-First-Century Religion and Culture in Youth Literature

Call for Papers: A Special Issue of ThLion and the Unicorn: Twenty-First-Century Religion and Culture in Youth Literature

Deadline for submissions of proposals: July 15, 2024

Submit via Google Form: https://forms.gle/tC8g7MYpLAxF6dcu8

For any questions, contact Sara Schwebel (sls09@illinois.edu), Suzan Alteri (salteri@illinois.edu), or Dainy Bernstein (dainyb@illinois.edu).

From its earliest moments in medieval Britain and colonial America, Anglophone children’s literature was built on a foundation of religion. Even when not positioned as explicitly religious, the dominant British and colonial religion of Christianity infused children’s books with church-based morals, and references to Christmas and Jesus were taken for granted. Since then, religion has continued to be an important aspect of children’s literature, but the relationships between religion, culture, children’s literature, education, and libraries have changed several times. Now, in the twenty-first century, Anglophone children’s literature is often more conscious of religious and international diversity, having been influenced by movements like We Need Diverse Books and grassroots organizations serving religious and cultural minorities. At the same time, increasing social and political polarization affects the production of children’s literature, especially when controversial topics are so often tied to religious ideologies. Recent developments like new manifestations of religious nationalism, the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia, the splintering of the Methodist church, Pope Francis’ decision to allow Catholic clergy to bless same-sex relationships, the growing rate of young adults leaving religious communities, and differentiation within a variety of indigenous and diasporic religions make the time ripe for reconsideration of academic discussions about the role of religion and belief in children’s literature.

This special issue aims to revive and expand long-standing conversations about the roots and continued presence of religion in children’s literature, beyond consideration of early Christian influences. For example, children’s literature has been shaped by many developments including:

  • fundamental changes in religious institutions;
  • cross-cultural influences within and between religions;
  • secularization and resistance to secularization;
  • grappling with and/or reconciliation of creationism and evolution;
  • movements intersecting with religion (e.g., ongoing civil rights struggles, feminism, LGBTQ+ advocacy, abortion access, environmental activism, decolonial movements, Black Lives Matter).

With an eye towards interfaith dialogue and inclusion, we will feature a variety of perspectives on religion and culture in children’s and young adult literature.

We invite submissions of proposals for this special issue of The Lion and the Unicorn to be published in Spring 2026. Please submit abstracts of 400-500 words for full-length essays (8,000-10,000 words) addressing, challenging, and/or developing ideas about the current state of religion and culture, broadly defined, in texts for children and young adults in a variety of religious and cultural contexts. We especially encourage papers considering non-Western and non-Abrahamic religious traditions, papers engaging with intersectionality, and papers considering old ideas in a new light.

Read Full Call for Proposals: https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2024/03/05/special-issue-of-the-lion-and-the-unicorn-twenty-first-century-religion-and-culture

The Lion and the Unicorn, an international theme- and genre-centered journal, is committed to a serious, ongoing discussion of literature for children. The journal’s coverage includes the state of the publishing industry, regional authors, comparative studies of significant books and genres, new developments in theory, the art of illustration, the mass media, and popular culture. It is especially noted for its interviews with authors, editors, and other important contributors to the field, as well as its outstanding book review section.

  Deadline/Date: July 15, 2025