Teaching children’s literature through critical plant studies: Reflections on The Phyto-Analysis Map
Inspired by pedagogical work with student teachers, The Phyto-Analysis Map (Guanio-Uluru, 2021) was developed to synthesise analytical perspectives from critical plant studies as applied to children’s literary texts. The Map, with its phytocentric orientation, facilitates examination and discussion of plant representation in literary texts, calling attention to issues such as mediation, characterisation, the fore- and backgrounding of plants, and to whether plants are represented in environments of human design or as parts of a biotope. Based on textual examples from Anglo-American and Nordic children’s literature, the map provides a starting point for integrating perspectives on the other-than-human in the teaching of children’s literature in the Academy and paves the way for reflections on inter-species ethics.
While the analytical map has a root system of intertexts that includes material from indigenous traditions, engagement with the picturebook Welcome to Country, A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony (2016) by first nations Australians Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy (illustrations), made me reflect more deeply on the colonial entanglements of botanical science. Informed by decolonising perspectives from the fields of botany and critical plant studies, and the refractive agency (Barad, 2007) of Welcome to Country, I here discuss whether/how The Phyto-Analysis Map could be modified or regrown to become more epistemologically diverse and/or whether cultural and epistemological diversity is at odds with basic (totalising) principles of Western science.
Lykke Guanio-Uluru (email@example.com) is Professor of Literature at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. She researches literature and ethics, with an emphasis on ecocriticism, plant studies, fantasy, and game studies. Author of Ethics and Form in Fantasy Literature: Tolkien, Rowling and Meyer (2015) and co-editor of Ecocritical Perspectives on Children’s Texts and Cultures: Nordic Dialogues (2018) and Plants in Children’s and YA Literature (2021).