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Dr Áine McGillicuddy awarded funding to pursue research at Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies in London

Questions concerning truth, authenticity and memory, it could be argued, are now even more crucial as we progress through the first half of the twenty-first century and draw further away from the lived memory of the National Socialist era (1933-1945) and its terrible impact on society and individuals, including the displacement of thousands of children on Kindertransports and their forced and often traumatic separation from family and friends.

A new generation of child readers is now learning about this significant chapter of world history and, for many children, fictional narratives are often their first meaningful encounter with historical events. Literature for juvenile readers influences how they conceptualise the world around them in terms of its present and future but also its past. This underlines the importance of writing and publishing narratives for child readers that depict historical events accurately even if their characters are fictional.

Dr McGillicuddy’s project entails a critical comparative study of fictional texts and factual accounts for juvenile readers that deal with experiences of child refugees fleeing Nazism who went to the UK in the 1930s and 1940s. Her current project, which will draw on archival material in the Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, builds on research she has conducted and published to date on fictional child exile narratives from the Nazi period such as novels by Judith Kerr, Irene N. Watts and Marilyn Taylor.

Studies on the relationship between factual accounts of child exilic experiences and their commemoration and fictional treatment in children’s literature is an under-researched area in Exile Studies so it is hoped this research will contribute fruitfully to existing studies both in the fields of German and Austrian Exile Studies and Children’s and Young Adult Literature Studies as well as strengthening existing links in Exile Studies scholarship between the UK and Ireland.

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