Children's Media Research: Literature, Film, Comics, Theatre // Film Philosophy
Welcome to my website! I am a lecturer at the University of Bremen and the co-founder of KinderundJugendmedien.de, an open access portal dedicated to interdisciplinary research on literature, films, and picture books for children and young adults. My research and teaching focuses on storytelling across media for children and young adults, with a particular emphasis on literature, film, comics, and theatre. I also have a strong research focus on film theory and film philosophy. This website provides information about my research projects and publications.
In Germany, almost everyone knows Paul Maar’s stories about Das Sams. The Sams is a strange little creature, a kind of hybrid between Alf and a wish fairy, which more or less happens upon a middle-aged, reclusive man called Bruno Taschenbier. For reasons I am unwilling to explain here (you’ll have to read up on it by yourself), Taschenbier is adopted by the Sams as his “Papa”, which, apart from causing a lot of chaos in his hitherto quiet and boring life, has its benefits, since The Sams finds itself in the possession of a lot of blue freckles on its face, and with every freckle it is able to grant a wish to Bruno Taschenbier. Each of those, however, has to be formulated precisely, otherwise… well, see my point about chaos above.
First published in 1973, it took decades before the author finally agreed to a film adaptation of his book series. For the wonderful edited volume on Paul Maar – Studien zum kinder- und jugendliterarischen Werk (edited by Andreas Wicke and Nikola Roßbach) I have written a little essay on the film adaptations, which are interesting from a narratological perspective since the first film combines the content and story structure of the first three books within 90 minute’s screen time.
I have written an article on multiperspectival narration in Raquel Palacio’s novel Wonder for the international journal interjuli. The German-language article explores the idea that recent disability narratives gravitate towards more complex forms of storytelling, in this case: towards employing multiple narrators or narrational perspectives. You can download the article here.
At times love and desire conjoin to drive a man mad. While it is already a bad thing not to get the one you want, sometimes it can be even worse to be able to seduce anyone you desire just by calling out a single name: “Man-da-rin!”. This is what happens to the protagonist of Fritz Freisler’s long-believed-to-be-lost early expressionist film Der Mandarin from 1918.
The dandy-esque Baron von Stroom (Harry Walden), a quintessential rich good-for-nothing, acquires a talisman whose possessor is said to be able to seduce any woman he desires. The small statue of a Chinese mandarin turns out to be an Asian ‘genie in a bottle’: every time the Baron calls out “Man-da-riiiin”, the statue becomes alive and a real moustached mandarin appears, ready to make another woman fall in love with his master.
Unsurprisingly, von Stroom willingly succumbs to the temptations offered to him on a silver platter. But soon he develops nostalgia for the times where he still had to conquer the women he desired. Unfortunately for him, his attempts to seduce women without the help of his ghostly servant are utterly unsuccessful: not even a prostitute is willing to give in to his yearnings. “No mandarin, no women!”, the mandarin exclaims. Unable to get rid of his devilish servant, van Stroom, the utterly unheroic protagonist of the film, is driven into madness and ends up in a sanatorium, seeing the mandarin everywhere and in everyone.
Der Mandarin was long believed to be lost. It only resurfaced some years ago in the collection of an American film collector, and it was restored by the Austrian film museum in Vienna. Martin de Ruiter wrote a new score for the film, which was performed and screened during the 2007 edition of the Amsterdam Filmmuseum’s Biennale.
Sabine Planka has edited the English-language edited volume Critical Perspectives on Artificial Humans in Children’s Literature (Königshausen & Neumann, 2016) whose contributions explore the sophisticated ways in which children’s literature deals with the idea of artificial human beings, and how society, social fears and wishes are reflected and integrated within it. I have contributed an essay to that volume: “Dystopias of Creation: The Evolution of Artificial Humans in Contemporary Young Adult Literature”. Continue reading →