the ethical and religious dimensions of children's literature

This seminar will focus on the ways in which religious and ethical concerns shape children’s education and entertainment. It will cover not only how authors and illustrators imbue their work with mythic and moral significance, but also how arguably religious elements such as supernatural characters inflect secular literature and comic books.



photo of heather blairHeather Blair; Religious Studies; College of Arts & Sciences; Bloomington;



photo of alisa clapp itnyreAlisa Clapp-Itnyre; English; School of Humanities and Social Sciences; IU East;



photo of megan musgraveMegan Musgrave; English and Literature Program Director; IUPUI;




Seminar Events:



Colloquium with Sara Loy; English, IU Bloomington

"Imagination at Work: Test-Driving Agency in The Water-Babies and the Victorian World"


Thursday May 2nd 12-2pm

The Rathskeller restaurant, 401 Michigan St. Indianapolis

All are welcome, but please RSVP to Heather Blair ( so we can get the paper to you and arrange lunch reservations or catering accordingly.



Colloquium with Vivian Halloran; Comparative Literature, IUB

"The Island as a Place of Mourning: YA Fiction Maps Diasporic Grief and Healing onto the Caribbean"


Friday March 29th (time TBD)

Institute for Advanced Study conference room, IUB (624 E. Third St., Bloomington)

Lunch provided, and all are welcome, but please RSVP to Heather Blair ( so we can get the paper to you and arrange catering accordingly.




Colloquium with Kelly Blewett; English, IU East

"Scripts of Girlhood: Handwriting, Identity Performance, and the Baby-sitter's Club"


Friday February 1st 12:00-2:00 PM

IUPUI campus, Chancellors

All are welcome, but please RSVP to Heather Blair ( so we can get the paper to you and arrange lunch reservations accordingly.



Colloquium with Carrie Sickman Han

“Introduction,” from Continual Reading: Nineteenth-Century Fan and Franchise Fiction"


Friday February 22nd 12:00-2:00 PM 

IUPUI campus, Chancellor's, University Tower

Food and drink provided; RSVP to ( so we can arrange lunch reservations!



Colloquium with Megan Musgrave English, IUPUI

"Of Sultans, Studs, and Stableboys: Representations of Muslim Culture and Equine History in King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry” 


Friday Nov. 30th 12:30-2:00 PM

IUPUI campus, meeting place TBD

Lunch provided



Jon Ellerphoto of jon eller

Founder and Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies


Frankenstein and Ray Bradbury

Tuesday October 30th, 1:00-2:30 PM

IUPUI Campus Center, Room 409



The Virtues of Togetherness: Morality and Affect in Japanese Picturebooks

Colloquium with Heather Blair, Religious Studies, IUB


Tuesday October 30th 4:30-6:00 PM

IUPUI, Cavanaugh Hall, Room 438

If you think you’d like to come to the colloquium, please RSVP to Heather at so that we can arrange catering appropriately!

For our colloquium series, we are discussing in-process research by seminar members. The paper for this colloquium is available here through IU Box.



Colloquium with Alisa Clapp-Itnyre English, IUE

Man of Sorrow and Child of Woe Rev. Patrick Brontë’s Hymn Selections for the Children of Haworth Parish, and His Own, 1827-1835” 


Friday Sept. 28th 12:30-2:00 PM

Shoefly Public House

Lunch provided



Sharing Values with Children through Books: The Dilemma of Didacticism

Claudia Mills       photo of claudia mills holding one of her books

Philosophy Associate Professor Emerita at University of Colorado Boulder,

Children's author


Wednesday March 28th 4:00-5:30 PM

IUPUI, Cavanauagh Hall, 438

Claudia Mills holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and an M.L.S. degree (with a concentration in children’s literature) from the University of Maryland. She is Associate Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, as well as serving on the faculty in the Graduate Program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University. The author of almost 60 books for young readers, most recently Write This Down (Farrar) and The Trouble with Babies (Knopf), she has also published articles on Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Maud Hart Lovelace, Betty MacDonald, Rosamond du Jardin, and Eleanor Estes. Her edited collection, Ethics and Children’s Literature (2014, Ashgate), won the Best Edited Book Award from the Children’s Literature Association(see her author page for more information).



photo of man holding son over head with event detailsImagining Youth/Youth Imagining: Folklore and Literature

Fernando Orejuela

Folklore, IU Bloomington

Rebekah Sheldon

English, IU Bloomington



Friday Feb. 16th 2:00-3:30 PM

IU Bloomington, GISB, Room 3067

Panel discussion of research by Fernando Orejuela (IUB, Folklore) and Rebekah Sheldon (IUB, English)

2:00–3:30 pm, with coffee, tea, and snacks





Dealing with Death

Alisa Clapp-Itnyre

English, IU East


Sunday Feb. 4th 2:00 PM

IU Richmond, Richmond Civic Theatre

Post-performance discussion following Stage One Youth Theatre’s production of Bridge to Terabithia, Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, director

Performance at 2 pm, with discussion following



Picturing Religion and Ethics through Comic Books


Daniel Peretti

Indiana University, Folklore & Ethnomusicology

Heather Blair

Indiana University, Department of Religious Studies


Thursday Nov. 30th 1:45-3:45 PM

IU Bloomington, Wells Library, Room 030

In his new book, Superman in Myth and Folklore (University of Mississippi Press, 2017), Daniel Peretti explores how Americans use the Man of Steel as a model for behavior, a means to express and perform individual identity, and a focal point for community. 

Heather Blair specializes in the history of Japanese religious culture. In her current book project, provisionally titled The Gods Make You Giggle: Finding Religion in Japanese Picturebooks, she argues that religious imagery and ideas animate Japan’s modern and contemporary picturebooks in unrecognized but important ways.



Ethics All Around Us: Current Research on 19th Century & Contemporary Experiences for Children


Tuesday September 26th 11:15AM - 1:15PM

IU Bloomington, GISB Building, Room 3067


Research Roundtable and lunch with Alisa Clapp-Itnyre (IU East, English); Megan Musgrave (IUPUI, English and Native American Studies); Rebekah Sheldon (IUB, English)