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CFP: Children and Childhood in the Works of Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and well-known American authors. King’s work brought modern horror and the supernatural to mainstream audiences in 1974 with the publication of his first novel, Carrie, a coming-of-age story about a bullied and lonely girl who discovers she has a real and deadly power. One of the defining features of Stephen King’s oeuvre is his use of children and childhood in his novels and short stories. A King childhood is often framed within the horrors of the adult world–the dangers of uninhibited technology, abusive parents, the supernatural, or other strange or frightening circumstances–or the horrors of childhood itself. In a King narrative, children are often left unprotected and vulnerable while facing unimaginable threats. King’s use of child characters within the framework of horror (or of horrific childhood) raises questions about adult expectations of children, childhood, the nature of innocence, the American family, child agency, and the nature of fear and terror for (or by) children. Childhood in King’s work is often (but not always) set within the mythos of small town America and the idealized spaces that have become emblematic of a pastoral or “proper” Western childhood. Such myths are then challenged or shattered by events that question notions of innocence, purity, reality, and American exceptionalism. This collection’s goal is to offer a critical look at childhood throughout Stephen King’s works, from his early novels, short stories, through film or TV adaptations, to his most recent publications. The ways in which King complicates, challenges, or terrorizes children and notions of childhood provide a unique lens through which to view historically, philosophically, or theoretically American cultural, familial, and adult anxieties about children and childhood, particularly as King’s work spans decades of American culture.

Submissions are welcomed examine children and childhood from a variety of perspectives in the works of Stephen King, including his novels, novellas, short stories, and films or television adaptations. Submissions are welcome from a variety of disciplines, and from multiple theoretical, or philosophical perspectives. International submissions are also welcome. Some suggested topics include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Misfit children
  • Child as monstrous
  • Lost children
  • Child victim/Child as victimizer
  • Bullying and bullies
  • Isolated/isolating children
  • Childhood culture (among children)
  • Childhood anxieties
  • Fear and/in/of children
  • Children and the supernatural
  • Child hero/anti-hero
  • Child savior
  • Parenting/parenthood
  • Death and the Child
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Child agency
  • Cruelty to or by children
  • The American family and the child
  • The child and authority (school, government, i.e. The Shop)
  • Play (dangerous and otherwise)
  • Sexuality
  • Pedophilia
  • Freaks and the nature of Freakishness
  • Sacrificial children
  • Nostalgia and horror
  • Nature of reality for children

Interested contributors please send a 300-400 word abstract, full contact information, and a brief biography (30-50 words) to Dr. Debbie Olson at by July 1, 2018. Full essays will be due by April 1, 2019. Full essays will be in Chicago notes/bibliography style.

CFP – Children and Childhood in the Works of Stephen King