CfP Theorizing Minds: Narrative and Cognition from Infancy to the Fourth Age

David Lodge’s claim that ‘literature is a record of human consciousness, the richest and most  comprehensive we have’ (2002) remains compelling and the ways in which contemporary writing shapes linguistic and narrative form into realistic portrayals of thinking and perception provide a rich area of investigation for many vibrant strands of literary study. Critics have yet to fully respond to possible synergies that can emerge from an understanding of the poetics of children’s, young adult, and adult literature. Are the aesthetics of infant and older minds necessarily distinct, or are the inner workings of characters from all stages of life constructed through common attention to narrative strategies and imagery? Bringing together detailed explorations of cultural perspectives on the mind across the life course is thus a timely and important project.


The field of children’s and young adult literature studies has recently re-engaged with the issue of how to distinguish age stages, seeking to trouble the persuasive child-adult binary that has defined much scholarship in this area since the 1980s and break down some of the conventional understandings of power relations and difference (Joosen 2018; Gubar 2013; Beauvais 2015). At the other end of the lifecourse, the burgeoning area of literary gerontology has paid significant attention to middle and old age, exploring the narrative and generic strategies that enable or inhibit the representation of ageing and embodied consciousness (Woodward 1999; Chivers 2003 and 2011; King 2013; Hartung 2016). Concerned with (inter)generational relationships and identity, ageing studies has nevertheless sought to interrogate distinctions based on generation and chronological age (Gullette 2004, 2011), often engaging with insights gained in critical gerontology (e.g. Gilleard and Higgs 2015 on the third and fourth ages).


This special issue invites papers from researchers working on contemporary writing, narrative, cognition or philosophy of mind from a range of backgrounds, with a particular aim of opening up dialogue between specialists of writing for young people and those focusing on writing for adults. Proposals might investigate and theorize minds in literature from a single life stage or trace the effects of ageing; papers offering comparative analysis with children’s or adult writing are particularly welcomed. Possible topics might include:

  • Narratives of childhood cognition
  • Adolescence and the inner life
  • Narrating the 'middle-aged’ mind
  • Ageing, frailty and cognitive change
  • Memory and forgetting at all ages
  • Embodied consciousness across the life course
  • Intergenerational consciousness in fiction
  • Life narrative: writing one’s own mind
  • Fictional mind across life stages: 
    •  Artificial intelligence and authenticity
    •  Introspection and observation 
    •  Empathy


Please send expressions of interest to Alison Waller ( and Sarah Falcus (


Proposals due Sept 2020. Special issue to be published December 2021.