Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoiem has received the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) Prize for Best Faculty Research for her paper, "The Progress of Sugar: Consumption as Complicity in Children’s Books about Slavery and Manufacturing, 1790-2015." The award recognizes outstanding humanities research by a faculty member at the University of Illinois.
In her paper, which was published in Children's Literature in Education in June 2021, Hoiem analyzes "production stories," a genre of books and media that teaches how everyday things are made. Since they started in the eighteenth century, children's production stories have evolved from picturebooks to TV episodes and web video series. Hoiem focuses on stories of sugar production in her paper and accompanying web resource, Production Stories.
Hoiem will present at the Children's Literature Association’s annual conference in June, proposing a collaborative book-length project on production stories.
"Working with other scholars, I would like to cover essential materials, such as coal, plastic, water, and bread, which have been the subject of children's books for centuries, and which have shaped our concepts of childhood," she said. "Books about these commodities raise ethical questions concerning labor, consumption, and environmental justice."
In her research and teaching, Hoiem explores the history of technological innovations in children’s literature, from early children's books and toys to contemporary applications of digital pedagogy. Her current book project, The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1760-1860 (supported by an NEH fellowship) uses children's literature, toys, automata, and textbooks to investigate the history of class politics in experiential education. Her recent articles address the politics of translating children's Robinsonades after the French Revolution, 1830s Radical texts written for child workers, and nineteenth-century information books for children.