Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 264–279 | Cite as

Critiquing Calypso: Authorial and Academic Bias in the Reading of a Young Adult Novel

Original Paper


The position of authors of fiction in relation to critical discussion of their work is an unsettled one. While recognized as having knowledge and expertise regarding their texts, they are typically regarded as unreliable sources when it comes to critical analysis, and as partial witnesses whose personal association with the text is liable to influence their judgement. This article reconsiders that position, not by arguing that authors lack bias but by showing that bias is the normal condition of all critical reading and writing, whether by authors of fiction or by academic critics. I take as a case study my novel Calypso Dreaming (2002), comparing my own understanding of the text with a recent discussion by four influential critics. I argue that the rhetorical and methodological framing of critical discussion is a necessarily procrustean exercise, that may yield insights into texts but is also characterized by distortion and selectivity. Moreover, the conventional positioning of critics as “disinterested,” in contrast to “biased” authors, disguises the extent to which academic discussions are subject to the same personal and professional influences as those of other writers.


Calypso Dreaming “Holiday Work” New World Orders Critical-creative divide Bias in reading Ecofeminist criticism 


  1. Anon. (2009). Two Intriguing Islands—with Amazing Histories. Bear Essentials: The Newsletter of Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, April, 13–14. Accessed August 24, 2012 from
  2. Barthes, Roland. (1967/1977). The Death of the Author. In Image Music Text (pp. 142–148). London: Fontana Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bradford, Clare, Mallan, Kelly, Stephens, John and McCallum, Robyn. (2008). New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature: Utopian Transformations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butler, Charles. (1998). Timon’s Tide. London: Orion.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, Charles. (2002). Calypso Dreaming. London: Collins Voyager.Google Scholar
  6. Butler, Charles. (2006a). Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press/Children’s Literature Association.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, Charles. (2006b). Death of a Ghost. London: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  8. Butler, Charles. (2007). Holiday Work: On Writing for Children and for the Academy. Children’s Literature in Education, 38(3), 163–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butler, Charles. (2009). Experimental Girls: Feminist and Transgender Discourses in Bill’s New Frock and Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl? Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 34(1), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Derrida, Jacques. (1988). Limited Inc. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fish, Stanley. (1980). Is There a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Garner, Alan. (1997). The Voice that Thunders: Essays and Lectures. Edinburgh: The Harvill Press.Google Scholar
  13. Giblett, Rod. (1996). Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Isaacs, Anne and Zelinsky, Paul O. (1994). Swamp Angel. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  15. Stephens, John. (1992). Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  16. Stephens, John and McCallum, Robyn. (1998). Retelling Stories, Framing Culture: Traditional Story and Metanarratives in Children’s Literature. New York: Garland.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the West of EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations