Department of English

Professor John Stephens

John Stephens photoPosition: Emeritus Professor in English
Contact Details
Office: W6A 338
Phone: 61-2-9850 8748



BA (Hons) Melbourne, MA (Hons) Sydney, DLitt Macquarie


John's major focus is on children's literature. Since retirement, he has continued to supervise a wide range of Higher Degree Research topics within this field. His own research interests center on the relationships between texts produced for children (especially literature and film) and cultural formations and practices. His most influential publication in this area has been Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction (1992).

John is General Editor of International Research in Children's Literature. In 2007 his contribution to research internationally was recognized through the awarding of the 11th International Brothers Grimm Award, a biennial award made to a scholar who has produced an outstanding body of research into children's literature.


John's research spans a diverse range of fields, but is broadly unified by his long-standing interests in ideology of text, narratology, and discourse analysis. His principal impact on international scholarship and research has been in the field of children's literature.

His research currently focuses on comedy and humour in children's literature and film.

Selected publications


  • Subjectivity in Asian Children's Literature  (New York and London, Routledge, 2013) [editor and contributor of Chapter 1]

  • New World Orders in Contemporary Children's Literature (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) [with Clare Bradford, Kerry Mallan, and Robyn McCallum]
  • Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children's Literature and Film. (New York: Routledge, 2002) [editor and contributor of/to three chapters]
  • Retelling Stories, Framing Culture: Traditional Story and Metanarratives in Children's Literature (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998 [with Robyn McCallum]
  • From Picture Book to Literary Theory, edited with Ken Watson (Sydney: St Clair Press, 1994)
  • Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction (London and New York: Longman, 1992)

Book Chapters

  • 'Representations of Place in Australian Children's Picture Books', pages 97-118 in Maria Nikolajeva (ed), Voices from Far Away. Current Trends in International Children's Literature Research (Stockholm: Center for the Study of Childhood Culture, 1994)

  • 'Children's Literature, Interdisciplinarity and Cultural Studies', pages 161-79 in Clare Bradford (ed.) Writing the Australian Child. Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1996
  • '"Is This the Promised End...?": Fin de Siècle Mentality and Children's Literature' in Sandra Beckett (ed) Reflections of Change (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997)
  • 'Unbronzing the Aussie: Heroes and SNAGs in Fiction and Television for Australian Adolescents', in A Necessary Fantasy: The Heroic Figure in Children's Popular Culture, ed. Dudley Jones and Tony Watkins (New York: Garland Publishing, 1999) [with Robyn McCallum]
  • 'Discourses of Femininity and the Intertextual Construction of Feminist Reading Positions' in Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children's Literature and Culture, ed. Beverly Clark and Margaret Higonnet (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), pages 130-141 [with Robyn McCallum]
  • 'Continuity,Fissure, or Dysfunction? From Settler Society to Multicultural Society in Australian Fiction', in Roderick McGillis (ed.) Voices of the Other: Colonial and Postcolonial Children's Literature. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1999, pages 55-70
  • 'Maintaining Distinctions: Realism, Voice, and Subject Position in Australian Young Adult Fiction', in Sandra Beckett (ed.) Transcending Boundaries: Writing for a Dual Audience of Children and Adults. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1999, pages 183-198.
  • 'Questions of "What" and "Where," and Contexts of "Meaning" for The Mouse and his Child in the Late Twentieth Century', in Alida Allison (ed.) Russell Hoban/Forty Years: Essays on his Writing for Children (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 2000)
  • 'Writing by Children, Writing for Children: Schema Theory, Narrative Discourse and Ideology' in Geoff Bull and Michele Anstey (eds.) Crossing the Boundaries Frenchs Forest: Prentice Hall, 2000, pages 237-248
  • '"There are Worse Things than Ghosts": Reworking Horror Chronotopes in Australian Children's Fiction' in A.E. Gavin and C. Routledge (eds.), Mystery in Children's Literature: From the Rational to the Supernatural. London: Macmillan, 2001, pages 165-183. [With Robyn McCallum]
  • '"A Page Just Waiting to be Written on": Masculinity Schemata and the Dynamics of Subjective Agency in Junior Fiction' in Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinity in Children's Literature and Film , pages 38-54
  • 'Instantiating Heterotopic Childhood Spaces: Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy and Peter Wells' Boy Overboard' in Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinity in Children's Literature and Film , pages 164-184 (with Beverley Pennell)
  • 'Representing Masculinity in Young Adult Fiction: a Comparative Study of Examples from Norway and Australia' in Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinity in Children's Literature and Film , pages 164-184 (with Rolf Romøren)
  • '"I'll never be the same after that summer": From Abjection to Subjective Agency in Teen Films', pages 123-138 in Kerry Mallan and Sharyn Pearce (eds.) Youth Cultures: Texts, Images and Identities . Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002.
  • "Anthropocentrism and the Haecceitas of Nature in Multimodal Ecological Discourses for Children" in Len Unsworth (ed.) New Literacies and the English Curriculum: Multimodal Perspectives. London: Continuum, 2008, pages 69-88.
  • "'They are Always Surprised at What People Throw Away': Glocal Postmodernism in Australian Picturebooks" in Lawrence R. Sipe and Sylvia Pantaleo (eds.) Postmodern Picturebooks: Play, Parody, and Self-Referentiality.  New York: Routledge, 2008, pages 89-102.

  • Positioning Otherness: Language and Narrative Strategies in Australian Young Adult 'Multicultural' Fiction" in Ulrike Garde and Anne-Rose Meyer (eds.) Belonging and exclusion. Case studies in recent Australian and German literature, film and theatre.
    Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009: 133-46 [with Robyn McCallum]

  • "Retelling Stories Across Time and Cultures" in M. O. Grenby and Andrea Immel (eds) The Cambridge Companion to Children's Literature  Cambridge: CUP, 2009: 91-107.

  • "Ideology and Children's Books," in Karen Coates, Shelby Wolf, Patricia Enciso, and Christine Jenkins (eds) Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2010: 359-71.  [with Robyn McCallum]

  • "Narratology" in David Rudd (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Children's Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2010, pages 51-62.

  • "Schemas and Scripts: Cognitive Instruments and the representation of Cultural Diversity in Children's Literature" in Kerry Mallan and Clare Bradford (eds.) Contemporary Children's Literature and Film. London: PalgraveMacmillan, 2011: 12-35.

  • "'The Ghost Remembers Only What It Wants To': Traumas of Girlhood as a Metonym for the Nation in the South Korean Whispering Corridors (Yeogo goedam) Series" Chapter 7 in The Nation in Children's Literature: Nations of Childhood. Ed. Kit Kelen and Bjorn Sundmark. New York and London: Routledge, 2013 (November, 2012): 97-110 [with Sung-Ae Lee]

  • "Dystopian Worlds and Ethical Subjectivities in Bloodtide and Bloodsong" in Melvin Burgess: A Casebook. Ed. Alison Waller. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013: 98-115 [with Robyn McCallum]

  •  "Mishmash, Conceptual Blending and Adaptation in Contemporary Children's Literature Written in Dutch and English" In Never-ending Stories, edited by Sara Van den Bossche and Sylvie Geerts. Ghent: Academia Press, 2014: 193-214 [with Sylvie Geerts]

  • 'Advocating Multiculturalism: Migrants in Australian Children's Literature after 1972', Children's Literature Association Quarterly 15,4(1990): 180-85
  • 'Writing By Children, Writing For Children: Schema Theory, Narrative Discourse and Ideology', Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 73,3(1995): 853-863
  • 'Gender, Genre and Children's Literature', Signal 79(1996): 17-30
  • 'Ideological Reshapings - Pruning The Secret Garden in 1990s Film', Paradoxa 2,3(1996): 471-482 [with Robyn McCallum]
  • 'Not Unadjacent to a Play about a Scottish King: Terry Pratchett Retells Macbeth', Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature, 7,2(1997): 29-37.
  • 'Modality and Space in Picture Book Art: Allen Say's Emma's Rug', CREATA, 1(1999): 44-59.
  • 'Constructions of Female Selves in Adolescent Fiction: Makeovers as Metonym', Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature, 9,1(1999): 5-13.
  • 'Children's Literature, Text and Theory: What are we interested in now?', Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature, 10,2(2000): 12-21.
  • 'Utopia, Dystopia, and Cultural Controversy in Ever After and The Grimm Brothers' Snow White', Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies 16,2(2002): 201-213 (with Robyn McCallum)
  • 'Reading Development Across Linked Stories: Anna Fienberg's Tashi Series and The Magnificent Nose and other Marvels', The Lion and the Unicorn 27,2 (2003): 185-198 [with Izumi Tsukioka]
  • 'Japanese popular culture and character fashioning: the quest for subjective agency in the animated films, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind and Perfect Blue' International Journal of the Humanities , 1 (2003): 311-321 [with Mio Bryce]
  • 'Picture Books, Mimesis and the Competing Aesthetics of Kinesis and Stasis' Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature 14.1 (2004): 24-33
  • '"Nothing Dirty about turning on a machine": Loving your Mechanoid in Contemporary Manga', Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature 14.2 (2004): 44-54 [with Mio Bryce]
  • 'New Social Orders: Reconceptualising Family and Community in Utopian Fiction', Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature 15.2 (2005): 6-21 [with Kerry Mallan and Clare Bradford]
  • 'Diasporan Subjectivity and Cultural Space in Korean American Picture Books', Journal of Asian American Studies 9.1(2006): 1-25 [with Sung-Ae Lee]
  • "Performativity and the Child Who May Not Be a Child" Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature 16.1 (2006): 5-13
  • "Theory and Critical Practice," CCL/LCJ: Canadian Children's Literature / Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse 32.1 (2006) 132-144
  • "From Eden to Suburbia: Perspectives on the Natural World in Children's Literature," Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature 16.2 (2006): 40-45.
  • "New World Orders and the Dystopian Turn: Transforming Visions of Territoriality and Belonging in Recent Australian Children's Fiction" Journal of Australian Studies 32.3 (2008):  349-359 [with Kerry Mallan and Clare Bradford]

  •  "Impartiality and Attachment: Ethics and Ecopoeisis in Children's Narrative Texts" International Research in Children's Literature 3.2 (2010): 205-216.

  • 'Staging the Self: Performance/performativity as Affirmation of Subjectivity in Teen Gay Film' Groniek 190 (2011): 521-31 [with Kate Norbury].

  • Once upon a time.....
    Professor John Stephens talks about books for children, their readers, and Australian writers. He even answers the sticky question, 'What should a child get out of a book?' This interview was recorded after John received 11th International Brothers Grimm Award in 2007 for his research in children's literature. Follow the link to the MQtv podcast 'Once upon a time'.
    Download or listen to mp3 (10.64 MB)

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