An update on the Our Mythical Childhood Project

Since late 2016, I have been working in the Our Mythical Childhood project, surveying the reception of Classical Antiquity in children’s culture around the world. 

The Our Mythical Childhood project is funded for five years by the ERC’s Horizon 2020 program, through a Consolidator Grant at the University of Warsaw (Prof. Katarzyna Marciniak, PI, Grant Agreement 681202).  It is a huge international and interdisciplinary project, involving teams from Poland, the United Kingdom, Israel and Cameroon, and of course Australia.

Its mission is to explore the reception of Classical Antiquity in children’s culture around the world.  

Through a wide array of outputs (books, teaching tools, animations, and a large-scale survey), we consider the following:

What influences from Antiquity can we see in contemporary children’s culture? 

How is Antiquity presented in texts and objects aimed at children?  What role can Classical material play in children’s lives?

How do children respond to and transform Antiquity? 

How does Classical Antiquity modulate as it is transmitted around the world?

As leader of the Australian wing of the project, I oversee the data gathering from the Asia-Pacific region.  I’m also writing a book, Alphabetical Odyssey, in collaboration with Dr Miriam Riverlea (PhD, Monash), to provide a guide to the field.

Our Mythical Childhood Survey

In May this year I went to Warsaw, for a week-long workshop with the project: The Present Meets the Past. There, we launched the Our Mythical Childhood Survey, meaning that it is now open for searching.  It will be a tool that is useful for students, teachers, academics, and readers interested in youth versions of classical reception. The project has already uncovered hundreds of texts that retell, adapt, or are inspired by classical material in the Our Mythical Childhood Survey.

The team of entry-writers (so far 17 staff and students from UNE and other parts of Australia and New Zealand) is finding that the reach of classics in children’s literature from our region is considerable, making appearances in retellings, adaptations, and fantasy literature, in serious and playful modes.  From award-wining multi-media compositions about Theseus and the Minotaur, such as Requiem for a Beast, to international sitcom-based teen tv explorations of myth, such as the blockbusters Xena: Warrior Princess and H20: Just Add Water, Australasian creators are playing with classics to give expression to the issues facing young audiences, at home and around the world. 

Feel free to have a look at the Survey (being aware that like many digital projects, it is a work in progress)! And feel free to be in touch with me if you have suggestions for additions to the survey, or wish to participate.  I will be sending out a more formal invitation for potential participants later in the year (if you are a fan of Asterix, this may be your moment!).  And, if you’re interested in finding out more, you are welcome to read Antipodean Odyssey, the blog in which I outline some of our findings and think through issues in the field, with help from other scholars, students, and creators.