Research

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Children’s Books on the Big Screen, published by University Press of Mississippi in June 2020, is based on the premise that adaptation studies scholars suggest that no matter how interesting it may be to pick apart a film’s consistency with and departure from its source, these approaches can be limiting because books and movies operate as two very different mediums.  Children’s Books on the Big Screen moves away from this approach by tracing a pattern across films for young viewers to highlight a consistent trend: when films are adapted from children’s and YA books, concepts like self/other, male/female, and adult/child become more strongly contrasted and more diametrically opposed in the film version.  Children’s Books on the Big Screen describes this as binary polarization, suggesting that more stark opposition between concepts leads to shifts in the messages that texts send, particularly when it comes to representations of gender, race, and childhood.

After introducing why critics need a new way of thinking about children’s adapted texts, Children’s Books on the Big Screen uses middle-grade fantasy adaptations to consider the reason for binary polarization and looks at the ideological results of polarized binaries in adolescent films and movies adapted from picturebooks.  The text also explores movies adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to dig into instances when multiple films are adapted from a single source and ends with pragmatic classroom application, suggesting teachers might utilize this theory to help students think critically about movies created by the Walt Disney corporation.  Drawing from numerous popular contemporary examples, Children’s Books on the Big Screen posits a theory that can begin to explain what happens—and what is at stake— when children’s and young adult books are made into movies.

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

“Teaching Adolescent Film: A Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Approach.”  Options for Teaching YA Literature, edited by Mike Cadden, Roberta Seelinger Trites, and Karen Coats, MLA, forthcoming Spring 2020.

My chapter builds from cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) to demonstrate how teachers might help students conceptualize the contextual and material factors inherent to the production of adolescent film adaptations.  I posit that a CHAT approach to YA film pedagogy encourages students to consider the context and materiality of their own textual productions in a similar way, utilizing a meta-analysis of literate activity to achieve two key goals:  developing both greater understanding of adolescent film adaptation practices and the ability to more proficiently write about these texts in purposeful ways.

“Power, Prejudice, Predators, and Pets:  Race and Representation in Animated Animal Films.” The Palgrave Handbook of Children’s Film and Television, edited by Casie Hermansson and Janet Zepernick, Palgrave, 2019, pp. 345-64.

My chapter explores contemporary trends and discourses surrounding portrayals of animals in children’s animated film.  Building from a brief examination of the preponderance of problematic depictions in Disney animal movies, I use Zootopia (2016) to suggest that this trend may not only reflect a discomfort with the concept of representing non-white individuals in children’s film, but also leads to problematically ambiguous messages about institutions of power that act as the basis for prejudice.  I then draw on two additional films produced the same year—The Secret Life of Pets and Kubo and the Two Strings—to consider animated animal portrayals alongside cultural, political, and ideological discourses related to power, privilege, and representation, interrogating the challenges and complexities of intertwining animated anthropomorphism and cultural representation.

“‘Unless Someone Like You’ Buys a Ticket to this Movie: Dual Audience and Aetonormativity in Picturebook to Film Adaptations.”  Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 49, no. 4, 2018. 

Published in Children’s Literature in Education, this article contributes to my overall agenda by examining a trend in filmic adaptations of children’s picturebooks, positing that added content foregrounds adult roles and presence within the story far more than in a film’s picturebook counterpart, and frequently in ways that emphasize adult characters, while also reinforcing adult/child power hierarchies more strongly than in the source text.  I suggest that consistently, adults and adult-centered references take on greater prominence within film adaptations than in their picturebook source texts, producing a pattern that highlights the role medium plays in a conceptualization of dual audience and its impact on the ideologies a text presents.

“The Difficulty in Deciphering the ‘Dreams That You Dare to Dream’:  Adaptive Dissonance in Wizard of Oz Films.”  Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 2, 2017, pp. 185-204.

This article introduces a term I developed to articulate a pattern in multiple adaptations of a single source text.  Using films adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a representative example, I posit that whenever multiple films are adapted from a canonical children’s text, these films include a greater degree of ideological tension than their source texts.  This tension has important ideological implications, which I demonstrate by exploring troubling messages with regards to race and gender in contemporary Oz adaptations. 

“Framing Agency:  Graphic Adaptations of Coraline and City of Ember.”  Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults:  A Critical Collection.  Ed. Gwen Athene Tarbox and Michelle Ann Abate.  U of Mississippi P, 2017, pp. 126-40.

While most of my research focuses on children’s film, this chapter related to comics for young people augments my other work by exploring the difference between filmic and comics adaptations of two children’s novels.  By exploring questions of agency both related to the reader experience and representations of children within the texts, I further interrogate a key component to a developing theory of children’s adaptation. 

Recent Conference Presentations

“Adapting for Children.”  Co-Chairperson, Collaborative Forum Panel (Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Adaptation Studies), MLA Annual Convention, 2023, proposed.

“Intersectional Representation on Small Screens:  Considering the Future of Children’s and Young Adult Media Consumption.”  The Child of the Future Conference hosted by the University of Cambridge, 2022, accepted.

“Power and Representation in Science Fiction Films for Young Viewers.”  Children’s Literature Association Conference, 2020, accepted, rescheduled for June 2022.

“Embodiment at the Next Level: Expressions of Selfhood in Jumanji Film Adaptations” Children’s Literature Association Conference, 2021.

“Narrative Irony and Ideological Missteps in Children’s Film.”  Children’s Literature Association Conference, 2019.

“Power, Prejudice, Predators, and Pets:  Race and Representation in Animated Animal Films.”  Children’s Literature Association Conference, 2018.

““Unless Someone Like You” Buys a Ticket to this Movie: Adult-Centered Additions in Film Adaptations of Children’s Picturebooks.”  IRSCL, 2017.

“Loving Her Makes Me More Human: Female Saviors in Young Adult Film Adaptations.”  Children’s Literature Association Conference, 2017.

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