English 478: Literature for Children

Cr. 3

alice in wonderlandThis course examines the artistic approaches and cultural influence of children’s literature from a literary and historical perspective.  In our discussion of influential texts written between 1650 and 2007 and their cultural contexts, we will examine questions such as: 

•    What is children’s literature?  What literary genres, artistic forms, and cultural values have shaped its history? 
•    Who is children’s literature written for and about?   How does the dual adult/child audience influence the content and reception of stories for children? 
•    What can we learn from prominent literary texts about evolving cultural definitions of children and adults, including those shaped by social class, gender, race, religion, and education?   
•    Does children’s literature offer a means for resisting cultural stereotypes and for imagining new social roles and identity for children (and adults)?  
In our discussion, we will be concerned mainly with how literary and historical questions emerge within and are debated by the texts themselves (e.g., close reading).  

dickjanepilgrim's progressTexts:

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Signet
Earnst, Lisa Campbell.  Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale, 2005
Munsch, The Paper Bag Princess, Annick, 1992
Scieszka, Jon.  The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Puffin, 1989.
Dr. Suess.  The Cat in the Hat, Random House, 1957
 Twain, Mark.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Penguin, 1986
Wangerin, Walter.  Swallowing the Golden Stone, Augsburg, 2001
Zipes, Jack.  The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature, Norton, 2005.

Articles on Reserve at the Christopher Center


    This course provides students the opportunity to read or reread selected classics of children's literature, including works by Lewis Carroll, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, A. A. Milne, Jean De Brunhoff, Madeleine L'Engle, Dr. Seuss, and others. Through a close reading of the texts, we will consider what makes certain literary works, expressly written for an audience of adults reading to children or children reading to themselves, profoundly interesting and important for readers of all ages, for parents, educators, psychologists, political scientists, literary and cultural historians, as well as children. We will consider how and why literature for children originated as a distinct literary genre, and what cultural and historical conditions contributed to its emergence. We will attempt to determine what children's literature most typically and most wisely reveals about the condition of children and the experience of childhood. Special attention will be paid to two sub-genres of children's literature--fairy tales and picture books--and when the opportunity presents itself, to the dynamic interaction of visual and verbal texts that illustrated children's books often provide.

    Students will be required to participate actively in classroom discussions and projects, write several short papers, and take a midterm and final examination.