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The linguistic, visual and multimodal representation of two-Mum and two-Dad families in children’s picturebooks

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Language and Literature
Issue number2
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)189-210
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Gender representation in children’s literature is an established area of research, and the representation of sexuality increasingly so. Less established, however, is work on sexuality in picturebooks, in particular (a) the representation of gay co-parents, and (b) work with a linguistic or multimodal focus. Using a dataset of 25 picturebooks featuring two-Mum and two-Dad families, and focusing on ‘explicitness’ about their sexuality, we explore differences in the representation of the gay Mums and gay Dads. We look first at the book titles and co-parents’ names, using van Leeuwen’s Social Actor Network (1996, 2008) categories of Nomination and Categorization. Secondly, we look at the indexing of gay sexuality through the linguistic, visual and multimodal representation of physical contact, starting with van Leeuwen’s (2008) Visual Social Actor Network. Although the co-parents’ sexuality was shown in positive and diverse ways, Mums were more frequently constructed than Dads as co-parents, and Dads more frequently constructed than Mums as partners. Gender appears to interact with sexuality to produce these gendered representations of the gay Mums and Dads.