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The collection as production line for children’s books: the role of archives

Marie-Pierre Litaudon
  • 1 2014-2015 GRECES Seminar; organised by Christine Rivalan-Guego, "Collections, Archives and Children (...)

This call for papers invites proposals for contributions to a special issue of the online journal Strenae on the role of the publisher’s series in the production of children’s books and the literary models it engenders. This publication is an extension of the seminar "Collections, Archives and Children’s Literature" held this year at the University of Rennes 2 in partnership with the Institut Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine.1

It is far from neutral to speak of the series in terms of "production line". To redress the balance in a field where textual criticism has long held sway (focused on the text as a self-contained entity, independent of its author and format, to be analysed independently of its historical context in an immanent reading), and drawing upon recent studies on historical poetics, this issue aims to restore children’s books to the cultural context of their production in the publisher’s series that contributes to giving them shape and meaning.

Introduced in the nineteenth century by publishers to create customer loyalty in target audiences, the series brings together a number of books under one formal system designed to be easily identifiable. In its first function as a paratextual structure, the series helps to describe the text (and/or the image), to guide its interpretation and influence its critical reception. Over the years the series has become a longstanding fixture in the world of publishing and in cultural life. Thanks to the series, publishers have continued to expand their reach and their role in the creative process, either by commissioning productions, or reshaping a book while it is being developed, or by rearranging or adapting works by authors and/or illustrators that have been published elsewhere.

If such editorial interference in books is by no means unique to series literature for the young, it is more pronounced and extensive in this sector, due to its uncertain, contested literary status. For this reason, it is all the more important as an object of study.

  • 2 Whoever the producer may be: editor, author, translator, illustrator, director of collection, etc.

We are looking for contributors to shed light on this hidden part of the creative process, and the decisive role it plays in the development of a book (its shape, its status, its reception). To this end, the use of archives is essential.2 The aim is to go beyond mere critical speculation (from the comparison of published works and the editorial discourse that frames them) in order to reveal the stages of the production process and the different actors and issues involved. The study of reception – of a series or of a book(s) in a series – is welcome, but it should hinge on the analysis of the editorial project, in order to make visible the socio-cultural, technical and economic parameters that inform the poetics of the series - and therefore the works produced by the series - and how they contribute to the perpetuation of, or alternatively, how they change, the literary models of an era.

Topics for study may include (this list is not exhaustive) :

- The creation of a series (identification of target readership, selection of authors, illustrators, its physical characteristics, dissemination methods), the reasons for its success or failure or, in the long term, its transformations. This could also include the analysis of unfinished editorial projects, such as projects for series that never made it into print, or of one or more works rejected in the context of an existing series.

- The translation, adaptation, or abridgment of a book or books within a series, in a synchronic or diachronic perspective; cultural norms and censorship, for example, when a work of general literature is published for young readers.

- The design of a series, in a synchronic or diachronic perspective; or the changes in illustrations of a text from one series to another, from one medium to another.

- The division into age groups that can accompany the conceptualisation of genre, media and styles specific to the literary production for children (writing procedures, types of illustrations, layout).

Proposals (1500-2000 signs, including spaces), in French or English, should be sent before March 30, 2015 to the journal Strenae:, along with a short bio-bibliography.

Proposals will be reviewed by Marie-Pierre Litaudon, lead researcher, and the editorial board of the journal. Authors will be promptly notified of the acceptance or rejection of their proposal. Articles to be submitted by 01 September 2015. Articles will be accepted in: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese.

Publication is scheduled for March 2016.


Isabelle Olivero, L’Invention de la collection : de la diffusion de la littérature et des savoirs à la formation du citoyen au XIXe siècle, IMEC/Maison des sciences de l’Homme, 1999.

Spiers John (ed.), The Culture of the Publisher’ series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 2 vol.

Christine Rivalan-Guego (dir.), La Collection, essor et affirmation d’un objet éditorial, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014.

Mavis Reimer, Nyala Ali, Deanna England & Melanie Dennis Unrau (eds.), Seriality and Texts for Young People: The Compulsion to Repeat, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Christian Guérin, « La collection ‘Signe de piste’ »: pour une histoire culturelle du scoutisme en France”, Vingtième siècle, n°40, 1993, p. 45-61.

Claire Delbard, Le Père Castor en poche 1980-1990 ou comment innover sans trahir ?, L’Harmattan, 2007.

Miclel Manson, Francis Marcoin, Guillemette Tison (dir.), « La Bibliothèque ‘Rouge et Or’ », Cahiers Robinson, n°21, 2007.

Gaëlle Morel, « Les ‘Photo Poche’ de Robert Delpire : un exemple d’édition culturelle », Strenæ [En ligne], 1 | 2010.

Eléonore Hamaide-Jager (dir.), « La collection ‘Page blanche’ », Cahiers Robinson, n°31, 2012.

Cécile Boulaire (dir.), Mame, Deux siècles d'édition pour la jeunesse, Presses Universitaires de Rennes/Presses Universitaires François-Rabelais, 2012. Cinquième partie « Les collections », p.231-289.

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1 2014-2015 GRECES Seminar; organised by Christine Rivalan-Guego, "Collections, Archives and Children’s Literature": held on 10 October 2014, 12 December 2014, 6 February and 12 April 2015.;

2 Whoever the producer may be: editor, author, translator, illustrator, director of collection, etc.

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