Children’s Literature

In this class we will read a wide range of stories for children from the eighteenth century to the present to explore how understandings of childhood and children’s literature are embedded in their cultural contexts. We will analyze how literature for children constructs the difference between childhood and adulthood (as linked to other binaries such as rationality/irrationality, freedom/subjection, and seriousness/triviality), and give special attention to how these stories participate in and resist systems of racial and gender difference. We will return across the semester to toys and animals: two figures that often think, speak, or look like humans in children’s literature, and therefore help us think about how children are taught to be human. Readings will include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Black Beauty, and Charlotte’s Web.