Down the Back of a Chair: What does a method of scrabbling with Le Guin’s ‘Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ offer conceptualisations of ‘the child’ in the Anthropocene? (Childhood and Society Seminar, 12-12.45pm Monday 14th June 2021, free, online)

In this paper we work with Ursula Le Guin’s (1986) Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction to offer a reconfiguration of ‘the book’ in early childhood contexts. By attending to the relational agencies that are generated from messy entanglements of reader-book-child-chair-cat-lice-mites…we are compelled to feel our way round to arrive at other ideas about what books are, what books do and what else they might potentiate in contemporary imaginations of ‘the child’. Le Guin retells the story of human origin by redefining technology as a cultural ‘carrier bag’ rather than a weapon of domination. She argues that the bag is recipient, holder, story, sack – for holding words-; in turn, ‘words hold things.’ The carrier bag theory allows room for everything and everyone. This generous and generative mode of enquiry frees us from the limitations of the linear, heroic anthropocentric/phallogocentric (Braidotti, 2013) narrative and instead opens up opportunities to explore stories with no happy-ever-after but instead embrace speculations about what else unfolds as we forage and gather along the way. We offer a scrabbling methodology: fragments of stories and sketches from imaginative and ‘real’ reading experiences coalesce with a method of scrabbling ‘down the back of the chair’ (both literally and metaphorically). This feminist methodology attunes to assemblages of odds and ends, hair and dust mites, children’s literature and child readers and facilitates a deep exploration of the intersectional, spatial, relational meanings that might tell us something else about childhood in the Anthropocene.

Victoria de Rijke & Jayne Osgood