John Stephens

Emeritus Professor

1969 …2023

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Personal profile


John Stephens is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of English. He has taught and researched children’s literature for almost 30 years, but continues to maintain interests in other fields of literary, film and cultural studies, under the conviction that children’s literature studies should maintain an active dialogue with other areas of research.

Research interests

John is best known for his Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction (1992), which since publication has been a standard reference for research in ideology, reader positioning, and discourse analysis in children’s literature: it sought to demonstrate the effectiveness of sharply observed close analysis; it arguably showed the relevance to children’s literature research of concepts such as subjectivity, reader subject position, focalization, intertextuality and the carnivalesque. This book has over 900 citations.

John has produced other books and many articles since then, ranging widely but maintaining a focus on ideology, textuality, discourse analysis and the cultural situatedness of children’s literature.

In recognition of his contribution to research in children’s literature, John was recipient of the International Brothers Grimm Award in 2007 and the Anne Devereaux Jordan Award in 2014. He was elected a Life Fellow of IRSCL in August, 2015. His book, Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children's Literature and Film, was named an IRSCL Honour Book in 2003. Subjectivity in Asian Children’s Literature and Film was named a ChLA Honour Book in 2015

Research engagement

A key aspect of the diversity of John’s research is a high level of collaborative research and publication — at times with peers, at times as part of a mentorship relation with more junior scholars or research students. He recognises that collaboration has the potential to promote children’s literature research in unique ways, by enabling a dialogue between scholars of different academic cultures, different generations, different genders, and different ethnicities, thus making possible work that an individual scholar is unlikely to be capable of. He considers that some of his best work has resulted from his collaborations (with ten different scholars).

John has also sought to promote the field through other activities, such as: active participation in learned societies — in particular, he served on the IRSCL Board from 2003 to 2000 (as President 1997-98); performing editorial roles, membership of editorial boards, and willingness to review and provide feedback on articles submitted to journals; regular conference participation (he believes ‘senior’ scholars in the field should speak with, listen to, work with and learn from the new generation of scholars); and offering scholarly lectures and seminars at institutions around the world.

John was founding Editor of International Research in Children’s Literature [EUP], and continued as Editor until 2016. From the first issue, John developed an active mentoring program to support early career researchers and scholars who did not have a native English background. Over the years he thus mentored articles from: China and Taiwan, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Peru, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Vietnam. His edited collection, The Routledge Companion to International Children’s Literature (2017) is a major contribution to international research. This 245,000 word collection comprises 47 essays from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.


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