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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Professor Kiera Vaclavik, BA, MA, PhD


Director of the Centre for Childhood Cultures

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8333
Room Number: Arts One 139
Office Hours: Tuesdays 2pm-3pm; Wednesdays 10am-12pm


Focusing on children’s literature and childhood culture from around 1850 to the present, my research explores questions including:

  • How do people engage with the material they encounter in books, and how does reading intersect with other aspects of their lives?
  • How and why are stories and literary works adapted into different media, and how do they circulate around the world?
  • What can ‘minor’ details tell us about the bigger picture? What light can easily-overlooked phenomena – of dress, of individual lives, of amateur performance – shed on broader historical patterns of global transmission?
  • In what ways are children creative and politically active? How are these aspects of lives related? And how can scholarly research and activity support, enable and extend children’s access to and involvement in the arts and cultural industries?

My work brings children’s literature studies into dialogue with a range of other fields including classics, postcolonial studies, fashion and music. It is guided by comparative approaches, engaging with Francophone and Anglophone material, and tracing the movement of works not only across linguistic and national borders but also between media and forms.

I have learnt an enormous amount through my collaborations with individuals and organisations across the creative and cultural industries, including Liberty, London, the V&A, Fevered Sleep, the London Symphony Orchestra and composer Paul Rissmann. Some of this work formed an Impact Case Study in REF2021: ‘Alice's Adventures in 21st-Century Creative Industries: Enrichment, Extension and Diversification of a Victorian Icon’ (3/4*).

My recent publications explore varied topics including the fancy dress component of World Book Day and the representation of museums in children’s literature. I have also been pursuing some of the many issues and materials uncovered in research for my latest book on Alice in Wonderland’s visual identity in the nineteenth century. These articles explore the sonic dimensions of the Alice books and the longstanding tradition of male performance of Carroll’s works.

Several recent and ongoing projects have focused on children’s well-being and – relatedly – on the rich creative and material lives of children, past, present and future. The BA-funded project, ‘Childhood heroes: storytelling survival strategies and role models of resilience to Covid-19’, with Rachel Bryant Davies (QMUL) and Lucie Glasheen (Southampton), and partners Storytime magazine, harnessed storytelling – past and present – to mitigate the immediate and longer-term educational, social and mental health impacts of COVID-19. I am looking forward to starting work on a Medical Research Council funded project with a team led by Andy Prendergast ‘’which also focuses on the benefits of creativity, play and storytelling.

In 2022 an AHRC network project with Hannah Field (Sussex), ‘Not Only Dressed but Dressing: Clothing, Childhood, Creativity’ brought together academics from multiple disciplines, curators and creative practitioners in workshops hosted by the V&A, Worthing Museum and the Musée du Textile et de la Mode (Cholet). Across these three workshops, clothing emerged as a rich and complex object of enquiry, with the potential to both limit and enable children’s identities and self-expression, as well as an exciting methodological resource and creative site.

Performance and creativity are also central to the AHRC-funded project, The Alice Sound, which is a collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra and composer Paul Rissmann. The project produced a bespoke website offering free and permanent access to two new concert suites for young audiences based on Lewis Carroll's classic Alice books, plus a wide range of cross-curricular learning resources spanning art, writing, drama and music.

I have been part of the supervisory teams of seven successfully completed PhD projects addressing a wide range of aspects of children’s lives and forms of cultural production for young people. These include translations of modernist children’s literature in France, representations of punitive practices in Golden Age children’s literature, the place of the non-European world in the lives of British children, and child migration to East London. With colleagues in Drama, Film and Comparative Literature, I am currently working with seven further students on projects exploring, for example, illustrated works produced in Britain and Bengal, child clones in YA literature and co-creation as a form of political activism in the work of Fevered Sleep.

These students, joined by other PhD students and early career researchers from across QMUL with interests in children and childhood, meet fortnightly in the reading and discussion group of the Centre for Childhood Cultures, which I co-founded and direct. The Centre brings together researchers from across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and beyond to foster research on children’s everyday lives and experiences, with a special focus on creativity, forms of literacy, and the links between different aspects of childhood culture.

Since 2018 I have been the Director of Research for SLLF.


As well as regularly supervising final-year dissertations, I have also convened or contributed to the following modules at QMUL:

COM5206                       To Be Continued: Adaptations of Global Literary Classics

COM200                         The Scene of Reading [see here for an article arising from this teaching]

COM4207                       The Scene of Learning

COM4206                       Introduction to Comparison

COM5010/6010              Grand Tours: Nineteenth-Century Adventure Stories for Young Readers & their Twentieth Century Afterlives

COM6002/7002              Constellations: Online Anthology Group Project

COM7200                       Cultures of Comparison

I am particularly proud of the online anthology module Constellations, which enables final year students to showcase their interests and work. Supported by a QM award to develop research-based learning and writing, the module involves small groups of level 6 students designing and building their own online anthologies. Incorporating contributions from external academics and industry professionals (e.g. from publishing and marketing), the module promotes graduate attributes and employability through its emphasis on team working, digital literacy and networking.


Research Interests:

My research interests include:

Children’s literature; Material culture of childhood; Adaptation studies; Fashion/fiction; Reception studies; Children’s dress; Lewis Carroll’s Alice books; World literature; Anthologies; Museum studies

Selected funded projects

The Alice Sound: Making New Music and Learning Resources Based on Carroll’s Classic Works

AHRC Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement with composer Paul Rissmann and the London Symphony Orchestra

Childhood heroes: storytelling survival strategies and role models of resilience to Covid-19

British Academy Special Research Grant: Covid-19, with Rachel Bryant Davies and Lucie Glasheen

Not Only Dressed but Dressing: Clothing, Childhood, Creativity

AHRC Research Network, with Hannah Field (Sussex)

‘Addressing Alice: The Emergence of a Style Icon, 1865-1890’

AHRC Early Career Fellowship

This 24-month project traced the emergence of Alice as style icon, exploring the many different ways in which she was dressed in the nineteenth century - how she both follows fashions and sets trends - and also the practice of dressing as Alice. The aim was to reconstruct Victorian visions of Alice, and to extend our understanding of her character (and that of her creator) via analysis of dress and physical appearance. The project extended reception studies into the realm of (fancy) dress and established a methodology equally applicable to other iconic figures. It not only re-examined canonical works through a new critical lens which sheds light on their international transmission and circulation, but also uncovered a raft of neglected source materials. In addition to publications, the research has generated outputs including a fabric collection with Liberty, an exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood, and concert suite with the London Symphony Orchestra. The research has reached an international, multigenerational audience through the exhibition and concert, feature articles commissioned by The Independent, and The Conversation, a number of pubic events and talks, and inclusion in over 100 media and online outlets nationally and internationally (including BBC Breakfast, BBC London, BBC Radio 4, The Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, the Times of India, El Universal (Mexico)).The project forms the basis of one of the Impact Case Studies submitted by SLLF for REF2020.

The Child in the World

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards with V&A Museum of Childhood

3 PhD studentships over 5 years, with Alison Blunt, Miles Ogborn, Alastair Owens (QMUL, Department of Geography)


Fashioning Alice: The Career of Lewis Carroll’s Icon, 1860-1901 (London: Bloomsbury, 2019)

Uncharted Depths: Descent Narratives in English & French Children’s Literature (Oxford: Legenda, 2010) 

Journal articles

‘Little Girls, Big Dreams: Creativity and Non-conformity in British Children’s Literature’, Girlhood Studies, 16:2 (forthcoming, 2023)

‘Listening to the Alice Books’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 26: 1 (January 2021), 1-20

‘World Book Day & Its Discontents: The Cultural Politics of Book-Based Fancy Dress’, The Journal of Popular Culture 52:3, June 2019, 582-605 

‘Introducing the Centre for Childhood Cultures – A Formal Partnership Between Queen Mary University of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood’, IbbyLink, 47 (Autumn 2016), 14-16 

'More than Mirrors: Dany Laferrière and Frédéric Normandin's Je suis fou de Vava', Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, 15/1 (January 2011) (Special Issue: The Francophone Caribbean and North America, edited by Alec G. Hargreaves and Martin Munro)

'Goodbye, Ghetto: Further Comparative Approaches to Children's Literature', PMLA, 126.1 (2011)

'Visibilité variable: la carte au trésor des Mines du roi Salomon', Cahiers Robinson, 28 (2010) (Cartes et plans: paysages à construire, espaces à rêver, ed. by Danielle Dubois-Marcoin and Eléonore Hamaide-Jager), 19-28

'Damaging Goods? Francophone Children's Books in a Postcolonial World', International Research in Children's Literature, 2.2 (December 2009) (Special Issue: Internationalisation, Transculturalism and Globalisation: Manifestations in Children's Literature), 228-242

'The descent to the underworld retold and regendered in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass', The Journal of Children's Literature Studies, 5:2 (July 2008) 37-56

'Prioritizing children's writing: rewards, risks and repercussions', Canadian Children's Literature/Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse, 34:1 (Spring 2008), 129-135

'Jules Verne écrivain de jeunesse: The Case of Voyage au centre de la terre', Australian Journal of French Studies, 42 (2005), 276-83

'George Sand & Jules Verne: A Missing Link', French Studies Bulletin, 90 (Spring 2004)

'"Un Petit Costume de Mineur": Class and Gender Cross-Dressing in a Reworking of Germinal for Young Readers', Romance Studies, 21 (2003), 115-126

'Brief and Discontinuous Forms of Prose as a Means of Empowerment in Stendhal's La Duchesse de Palliano', French Studies Bulletin, 78 (Spring 2001), 2-6. [Winner of the R. H. Gapper Undergraduate Essay Prize 2000]

Book chapters

‘Alice and their Afterlives: Revisioning Carroll’s Work Through the Lens of Male Performance’, in Pretty Girls and Brave Boys: Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Children’s Literature and Childhood (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2023)

‘Sourcebook, Guidebook, VIP Pass: The Role of the Museum in Writing for Young Readers’, in Museums in Literature: Fictionalising Museums, World Exhibitions, and Private Collections, ed. by Caroline Marie and Anne Chassagnol (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022), pp. 205-212

‘Of Bands, Bows and Brows: Hair, the Alice Books and the Emergence of a Style Icon’, in Colleen Hill (ed.), Fashion and Fairy Tale (London: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 253-68

‘Fashions of Alice’, ‘Fashions of Alice’, Alice in a World of Wonderlands, 3 vols(New Castle DE: Oak Knoll Press, June, 2015), vol I, pp. 723-725

'The Dress of the Book: Children's Literature, Fashion and Fancy Dress', Beyond the Book: Transforming Children's Literature, Papers from the British IBBY/NCRCL MA conference held at Roehampton University, UK, on 11 November 2012. IBBY/NCRCL Papers 19, ed. by Bridget Carrington and Jennifer Harding (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 62-76

'Haïti chérie: Haïti pour qui?', in Ecrits d'Haïti: Perspectives sur la littérature haïtienne contemporaine (1986-2006), ed. by Nadève Ménard (Paris: Editions Karthala, 2011), pp. 137-47

'Writing Young: Edwidge Danticat's Young Adult Fiction', in Edwidge Danticat: A Reader's Guide, ed. by Martin Munro (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2010), pp. 86-98

'L'Edition de jeunesse en Haïti', in L'Edition de jeunesse francophone face à la mondialisation, ed. by Jean Foucault, Michel Manson and Luc Pinhas (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2010), pp. 137-148

'The Truth in Lyra's Lies', in The Golden Compass and Philosophy: God Bites the Dust, ed. by Richard Greene and Rachel Robison (Chicago: Open Court, 2009), pp. 63-71

'Undermining Body and Mind? The Impact of the Underground in Nineteenth-Century Children's Literature', in Histoires de la Terre: Earth Sciences and French Culture, 1740-1940, ed. by Louise Lyle and David McCallam (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2008), pp. 187-201  

'Des abîmes franchis? La relation adulte-enfant dans Vendredi ou la vie sauvage et les valeurs du texte pour son jeune public', in Devenir adulte et rester enfant? Relire les productions pour la jeunesse, ed. by Isabelle Cani, Nelly Chabrol Gagne and Catherine d'Humières (Clermont-Ferrand: Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2008), pp. 283-294

'Death for Beginners: Nineteenth-Century Katabatic Narratives for Young Readers', in Birth and Death in Nineteenth-Century French Culture, ed. by Nigel Harkness, Lisa Downing, Sonya Stephens and Timothy Unwin (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007), pp. 127-138


PhD thesis supervision

Current students

2022  Dan de la Motte [LAHP-funded CDA with Fevered Sleep]

‘Performance-Based Co-Creation with Young People as Political Activism: Contextualising & Disseminating the Work of Fevered Sleep’

2021     Rosie Gailor (first supervisor)

‘Scrumdiddlyumptious and Uckyslush Women: The Female Experience According to Roald Dahl’

2021    Huiyun Mo [China Scholarship Council studentship] (co-supervisor)

Child Clones: the Biopolitics of Posthuman Childhood in Young Adult Speculative Fiction

2021   Anchit Sathi [QMUL studentship] (second supervisor)

‘I Believe That Children Are the Future: The Temporality of Queer-Parental Desire in European Modernism’

2020    Marta Vartolomei [self-funded] (co-supervisor)

Religious Views in H. C.Andersen’s Tales: a Comparison between the Original Texts and their Film Adaptations

2020   Jade Evans [REACH studentship] (second supervisor)

Creating, Exporting and Exhibiting British Film Stardom, 1920 – 1970

2019-     Aratrika Choudhury [QMUL studentship] (first supervisor)

’Empire and the Illustrated Book’

Students supervised to completion

2018-2022     Charlotte Slark [AHRC-funded CDA with the V&A Museum of Childhood] (co-supervisor)

East is East? Audiences, bureaucrats, and curators at the V&A Museum of Childhood, 1974-2010

2018-2023    Abigail Fine [self-funded] (first supervisor)

Fantastic Transformations: The Evolution of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother in Britain and America, 1922-2021

2015-2019  Lucie Glasheen [QMUL studentship] (co-supervisor)

'Playing with new space in 1930s East London’

2011-2019   Eithne Nightingale [part-time, AHRC-funded CDA with the V&A Museum of Childhood] (co-supervisor)

‘Child Migration to East London: Life stories of departure, arrival and settlement’

2011-2015    Céline Clavel [self-funded] (first supervisor)

‘Unravelling Punishment: The Representation of Punitive Practices in Golden Age Children’s Literature in France, England and America

2010-2014  Aneesh Barai  [QMUL studentship] (first supervisor)

‘Modernist Repositionings of Rousseau’s Ideal Childhood: Place and Space in English Modernist Children’s Literature & its French Translations’

2010-2014   Mary Guyatt [AHRC-funded CDA with the V&A Museum of Childhood] (co-supervisor)

‘The Non-European World in the Lives of British Children, 1870-1930'

MA thesis supervision

Jan-July 2014   Kali Myers (first supervisor)

‘Aesthetic, Mimesis, Commodity: The Relationship of the Cute to the Grotesque’ (Distinction)

Public Engagement

I am committed to engaging as wide an audience as possible for the activities undertaken within the Academy and have communicated my own research to an international, multigenerational audience. In 2011 I was an AHRC New Generation Thinkers Finalist and have since undertaken a considerable amount of media work. I have written articles for the mainstream press and in 2015 alone appeared in more than 100 media and online outlets nationally and internationally. I have also appeared and given talks at a number of public events including tours, on-stage interviews and collection launches. I was shortlisted for QMUL’s 2015 Public Engagement Prize (Inform category) and was selected as QMUL’s sole candidate for the 2016 Guardian Higher Education  awards (Research Impact category) and for the 2016 THE awards (‘Excellence and Innovation in the Arts’ category).

Collaboration with external partners in the cultural and creative industries is a core feature of both my teaching and research. I have forged relationships with multiple partners resulting in a range of commercial and cultural outputs, as well as studentships and events beneficial to a wide range of users and audiences. Some of the most sustained collaborations, which formed a 3/4* Impact Case Study in REF2021, are outlined below.

Selected collaborations

V&A, 2009-present. I have co-supervised three collaborative doctoral projects with colleagues at the V&A Museum of Childhood where I also curated ‘The Alice Look’ exhibition (May -Nov 2015) and organised a one-day conference.

Liberty, London, 2013-2015. The first and only time a design brief was accepted by Liberty Art Design from an external source occurred after I discovered an important reference to the store in Lewis Carroll’s diaries. Following an initial meeting, Liberty decided that a whole fabric collection based around Alice would be created for retail release in 2015. I was a consultant on the project: giving a talk to the designers and selecting a fabric for the collection from the Liberty archive. The collection of 92 fabrics was presented to trade in the Autumn 2014 and released on retail sale in January 2015.

London Symphony Orchestra, 2014-present. Building on a successful event held at the Barbican within the Children’s Literature/Lives research cluster, I worked with composer Paul Rissmann to produce a new concert suite based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Victorian musical interpretations of Carroll’s work, funded by a QMUL Humanities & Social Sciences Collaboration grant. The work was performed at concerts for schools and families that sold out 3 times over in November 2015. KT activity also involved an inset day with c40 teachers.

We then secured AHRC Impact Follow-on Funding to substantially extend and scale up this work, producing not only a companion piece, Through the Looking Glass, premiered at the Barbican in 2022, but also – crucially – recordings of the two works performed by the LSO. These performances are now housed alongside a rich range of cross-curricular learning resources spanning art, music, writing and drama, on a bespoke project website, freely and permanently available to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Recent broadcast appearances

Discussing Princess Smartypants, with Meera Syal in Anita Anand’s Radio 4 series, ‘Princess’

Wonderland, 4-part Series, Sky Arts, August 2022

Wonderland: The Story of Christmas, Sky Arts, 23 December 2022

Mainstream press articles

‘How reading aloud can be an act of seduction’, The Conversation, 26 February 2021 []

‘Many parents won’t read their children scary stories – but perhaps we shouldn’t blame them’, The Conversation, 1 September 2016 []

‘Dressing down the rabbit hole – how to become Alice in Wonderland,’ The Conversation, 29 Apr 2015 []

‘Alice in Wonderland: The Making of a Style Icon’, The Independent, 23 Mar 2015, p. 33 []

‘The tale of squirrelling away books that sparked a nutty row over children’s literature,’ The Conversation. 12 Dec 2014 []

Public events

9 December 2023        ALiCE Creative Minds Symposium, Jasmin Vardimon Company, Roundtable participant

20 May 2023                Alice Concert Suites and the Alice Sound website, with composer Paul Rissmann, online presentation for the Lewis Carroll Society of North America

23 April 2022               ‘Ballet Shoes and Hair Ribbons’ presentation for the Lewis Carroll Society of North America Spring virtual meeting on the connections between the work of Carroll and Noel Streatfeild.

28 December 2022       Post-show talk at Brixton House Theatre for Poltergeist Theatre’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’

2 July 2022                   ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Fashion Found There’, Oxford Playhouse

20 November 2021       How Queer Everything is Today whole day event exploring queer communities and identity in relation to the Alice books, co-organised with V&A in conjunction with Alice: Curiouser & Curiouser and part of the Being Human Festival, including my talk: ‘Alice is a Boy’

30 April 2021                   V&A Friday Forum: Creating Wonderlands, online

16 April 2021                   ‘On Storytelling, the Child and Public Health’, Queen Mary Conversations Week, online

1 July 2019                     ‘An Alice for All Seasons: The Evolution of a Fashion Icon’, Alice’s Day, Bodleian Library, Oxford

23 March 2018                ‘Trophies and Relics and Objects of Magic’: the lure of the museum for children’s writers past and present, V&A Study Day, Adventures in Art: Museums and Children’s Books

18 July 2017                   ‘Alice Grows Up: Russian Emigrees and the Making of a Style Icon’, Pushkin House

14 Oct 2016                    ‘The Alice Sound: the Wonders of Paul Rissmann’s Wonderland Suite’, Lewis Carroll Society Meeting, Art Workers Guild

20 Oct 2016                    'Peter Pan Collars & Alice Bands: The Sartorial Afterlife of British Children's Classics', The Florence Nightingale Museum

13 Nov 2015                   ‘Alice in Fashion’ for Wonderday: An Alice in Wonderland Study Day, Christ Church, Oxford

28 Sept 2015                  LSO Discover Teacher Inset Day, with Paul Rissmann

5 Sept 2015                    Expert presence to provide historical and contextual background on Carroll’s work at the Marc by Marc Jacobs launch of the capsule collection ‘’I Am Not Like Other Girls’, EuroDisney, Paris.

3 Sept 2015                    Guided tour of ‘The Alice Look’ for Dress and Textile Specialists network

2 Sept 2015                    V&A Members Curator talk, ‘The Alice Look’, V&A South Kensington

4 May 2015                     Interviewer of milliner Keeley Hunter, Emma Mawston (Head of Art Design, Liberty) and theatre designer Bob Crowley at Wonderland Session, ‘Designing Wonderland’, The Vaults, London

20 April 2015                   Interviewer of Royal Ballet principal, Lauren Cuthbertson, Fiona Fullerton and opera singer Fflur Wyn at Wonderland Session, ‘Being Alice’, The Vaults, London

21 Nov 2014                   ‘Rethinking Alice Through Dress’, Lewis Carroll Society Meeting, Art Workers Guild

Engagement events

3 Dec 2014                     Poster presentation: ‘Presenting new dress-focused research on the Alice books to a museum audience’, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Annual ‘Engage’ Conference, Bristol

24 June 2014                  ‘Alice, Anniversaries and Planning in Advance’, workshop for with Rhian Harris (director of V&A Museum of Childhood) and Emma Mawston (Liberty), The Culture Capital Exchange Conference, ‘Culture, Creativity and the Academy – Building a new ‘Grand Partnership’, Guild Hall School of Music & Drama

Selected interviews and other press coverage (print and/or online)

Flair [Germany] 26 Feb 2016

Reflex [Czech Repblic], 19 November 2015

‘Alenka v říši divů’

The Times Literary Supplement, 13 May 2015

Grafik., 11 May 2015

El Universal [Mexico], 8 May 2015

Times Higher, 7 May 2015:

Fucsia [Colombia], May 2015

The Times of India, 16 April 2015

The Times, 28 February 2015

‘Alice in Wonderland at 150: why we’re all about to go down the rabbit hole’

Varsity, 24 Feb 2015

Times Higher, 3 July  2014

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