Food and/in Children’s Culture. National, International and Transnational Perspectives  
Ca' Foscari University of Venice, 6-9 April 2021

This four-day online conference brings together scholars working on children's literature and culture from a variety of backgrounds to discuss food in children's culture. We will explore the political, ideological, and cultural connotations of food, encompassing the widest possible range of disciplines, cultures, and perspectives. We invite scholars to think about the topic with a broad, interdisciplinary mindset, spanning through different time periods and critical angles, to contribute to what we hope will be four days of stimulating discussion.

For information about registration, please contact the conference organisers at   foodchildrenculture2021@gmail.com

We are conscious about the challenges the current COVID-19 situation is posing to all of us, and we hope that our event will be a chance to meet and share our passion for research even at this difficult time. For this reason, the conference is now fully online, and it does not envisage any registration fees. 

Lucia Petrali Castaldi, "La piccola cuoca". Vallardi, 1909. Courtesy of Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, Turin

Call for papers

The call for papers is now closed.

Food is a prominent element in children’s literature and culture. As Carolyn Daniel puts it, by reading about food, children learn “what to eat and what not to eat or who eats whom” (2006, 4). In children’s narratives food can be, simultaneously, a mark of national identity and a bridge between cultures, through which children can both learn about their own national culture and encounter other cultural identities and experiences. It can be a mark of kinship, but also a mark of difference and monstrosity, a symbol of desire, but also a vehicle of danger and death. Food scenes represent moments of intense pleasure for characters in books as well as movies and performances; this in turn results in the reader/spectator becoming involved in what Gitanjali Shahani has called “food ekphrasis” (2018, 3) and consuming fictional banquets through vivid descriptions. At other times, these vivid descriptions may place before the reader/spectator/listener foods that are decidedly unappealing, at times monstrously so; and in some cases they may represent, equally vividly, scenes of hunger, poverty, and longing for unreachable food. 

Lorenza Stucchi (Author) and Lydia Sansoni (Artist), "Giochiamo alla cucina". Fabbri, c1973. Courtesy of Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, Turin

There are indeed few elements so multifaceted, counterintuitive, and contradictory as food, and its role in children’s literature and culture usually bears heavy ideological, political, and/or cultural connotations. This conference invites broad, interdisciplinary interpretations of this theme encompassing, but not limited to:

  • Children as eaters and/or food
  • Medicine and science: diets, “clean vs un-clean” eating, nutrition 
  • Food and gender
  • Picturebooks: picturing food and food fantasies/nightmares
  • Period-specific perspectives (Early Modern, Eighteenth Century, Victorian and Neo-Victorian, post-War, contemporary ...)
  • Food and the child body: normalized, codified, modified, rejected/accepted
  • Trans/national perspectives
  • Images of food and intercultural dialogues/issues
  • The press (childcare, cooking and house management magazines, children's periodicals)
  • Eating at home and abroad (in institutions [hospital, workhouse, school ...], in different countries, picnics, the family meal, feasts and special occasions ...)
  • Magical food
  • Food fantasies/nightmares
  • Children, food, and the environment: climate change, ecocriticism, access to food based on class/nationality …
  • Expressing concern about food: alcoholism and temperance, food disorders, poverty and hunger

Confirmed keynote speakers

Foto di Peter Hunt

Emeritus Professor Peter Hunt

Cardiff University (UK)


Peter Hunt is Professor Emeritus in English and Children’s Literature at Cardiff University, UK. He has been a pioneer of the academic study of Children’s Literature, and has lectured at over 150 universities, colleges and to learned societies in 23 countries, and has written or edited 36 books and more than 500 papers and reviews on the subject. His books have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese (Brazil) and Serbian. In 1995 he was awarded the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Society for the Fantastic in the Arts; in 2003 the Brothers Grimm Award for services to children’s literature, from the International Institute for Children’s Literature, Osaka; in 2018 the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, Naples; and in 2020 the Anne Devereaux Jordan Award for Distinguished Service to Children's Literature from the Children’s Literature Association. Over the past few years he has been a Visiting Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Unversità Ca’Foscari Venice, Newcastle University (UK), and Hollins University (USA). His most recent books include "The Making of Lewis Carroll’s Alice" (2020), and he contributed to Laura Tosi’s award-winning "The Fabulous Journeys of Alice and Pinocchio" (2018).  

Foto di Björn Sundmark

Professor Björn Sundmark

Malmö University (Sweden)


Björn Sundmark is professor of English literature at Malmö University, Sweden, where he teaches children’s literature, English literature, and creative writing. With almost 100 articles and books in English and Swedish, Sundmark has published widely on children’s literature as well as in the related areas of fantasy and the literary fairy tale. His monographs include the study "Alice in the Oral-Literary Continuum", and the two volumes "The Nation in Children's Literature" and "Child Autonomy and Child Governance in Children’s Literature", both co-edited with Kit Kelen. These two collections explore the often complex relationship between childhood, nation and children’s literature. In 2020 he published the collection "Translating and Transmediating Children’s Literature" together with Anna Kérchy. Sund¬mark was the editor of "Bookbird – Journal of International Children’s Literature" between 2014 and 2018, and is a long-standing member of the editorial board of both "Barnboken: Journal of International Children’s Literature" and "Children’s Literature in Education". Sundmark has, moreover, served on the children’s literature committee of the Swedish Arts Council and was the chair of the August prize committee of children’s literature 2016-2019. In 2019 he was one of the organizers of the Stockholm congress of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature.

Foto di Victoria de Rijke

Dr Victoria de Rijke

Middlesex University London (UK) 


Dr. Victoria de Rijke is Associate Professor in Arts & Education at Middlesex University in London and Co-Chief Editor of "Children’s Literature in Education Journal". Her research and publication is transdisciplinary across the fields of literature and the arts, children’s literature, media, play and animal studies, through the associations of metaphor.  

Publications include a picturebook (as RebVik) "The A-Z of Dangerous Food", (2012), which draws on Russian constructivist design and a range of playfully risky foods humans eat or are eaten by.  Her book Duck (2009) was developed out of work as Dr. Quack, recording ducks for research and exhibited audio material on ducks’ regional dialects.

Chapters and journal articles on children’s literature include ‘Modernist and Avant-Garde Children’s Books’ (2021) with Guilherme Magri da Rocha , "in Revista de Letras Nortementos  13(34)" Brazil, ‘Reading Children’s Literature’ (2020) in "Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Secondary years Education (42)6", ‘War-torn: a juxtaposition of signifiers, or radical collage in children’s literature’(2018)  "Journal of Literary Education", and ‘The Values of Savagery: Pathologies of Child and Pet Play in Avant-Garde Visual Culture’ (2017) for "Childhood and Pethood in Literature and Culture". Contrary to the popular warning, Victoria is always keen to work with animals and children.

Foto di Zoe Jaques

Dr Zoe Jaques

University of Cambridge (UK) 


Zoe Jaques is Fellow in Education at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, where she is the route co-ordinator for the MPhil / MEd in ‘Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature’ and leads the Part II paper in Education on ‘Children and Literature’. Her research interests focus on children’s literature, particularly children’s fantasy, and its engagement with what it means to be human. Her work covers a time-span between 1800 and the present and addresses a broad range of themes, from the sublime to Darwinism, ecocriticism, gender, cyborg theory, the history of the book, and animal studies. She is the author of "Children’s Literature and the Posthuman" (Routledge, 2015) and co-author of "Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: A Publishing History" (Ashgate, 2013). She has received funding by the British Academy and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, which allowed her to study Japanese appropriations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She has received research fellowships from the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

The conference site: Venice

Visiting Venice

Unfortunately, these are complicated times and travelling to Venice is not possible or advisable for most. We do hope to welcome you here in person soon; for the time being, we have selected for you some wonderful video tours showcasing the main artistic attractions in the city, provided by the Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia (MUVE), the consortium of Venetian museums:

Should you wish to learn more about the city’s museums and attractions – from art collections to handicraft workshops, from markets to historical buildings – please visit the City of Venice Tourist website.

Michel Oliver, "La Cuisine est un jeu d'enfants". Plon, c1963. Courtesy of Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, Turin

The venue

The history of the Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia reveals the tradition of trade and commerce that forms the very fabric of the city itself. It was founded in 1868 as the Advanced School for Commerce (Scuola Superiore di Commercio), the first such institution in the country, teaching advanced Business and Economics to its students. 

The university is named after Doge Francesco Foscari, whose 'dogado' (that is, the period he covered the office of 'Doge', the elected Head of State of the Venetian Republic) was the longest in the history of the city. Foscari commissioned the imposing main building, a Gothic structure situated on the Grand Canal, in the Sestiere (from ‘sesto’, ‘sixth’ in Italian, this word denotes one of the six areas in which the city is divided) Dorsoduro, to architect Bartolomeo Bono in 1453. Over the years, the palace hosted several important artists and historical personalities. Its position in the great 'volta de canal', a curve in the Grand Canal that commands a view spanning from the Rialto Bridge all the way to the Academia Galleries, made it a much-coveted spot for artists, who used the second floor balcony to paint views of the Grand Canal. 

Ca' Foscari experienced a moment of relative abandonment and decay in the Nineteenth century, until the city council purchased the building, renovated it, and finally made it the location of the Advanced School of Commerce, which, in time, became the Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia. 

Visit the official website of Università Ca' Foscari from more information.

Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, Turin

The Tancredi di Barolo Foundation, set in Turin, was founded in 2002 with the purpose of continuing the tradition of pedagogical initiatives developed by the Marquis and Marchioness di Barolo in the Nineteenth century. Started as a generous donation of a personal collection of books, drawings, toys and teaching material made by Marilena and Pompeo Vagliani to the Opera Barolo, the Foundation now hosts the School and Children's Book Museum and a vast library, which includes invaluable specimens of Italian and international children's literature, schoolbooks, and literature about childhood and childcare. 

The collection also includes some exquisite samples of children's cookbooks, and the images used in this website belong to a selection of these books. We would like to thank kindly Professor Vagliani and the Tancredi di Barolo Foundation for allowing us to use the material here.

For more information about the Museum and its initiatives, please visit the Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo website.

Books You Will “Eat With Your Eyes” … Presentation

The two slideshows below (in Italian and English) give you a taste of the rare and precious materials preserved in the Archives of the Tancredi di Barolo Foundation attesting to the presence of food and sweets in children’s literature. Enjoy!

Ester Gentili, "I pasticci di Scarabeo". Corticelli, 1932. Courtesy of Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, Turin