Children’s Lit (60)

(De)constructing Childhood: Family, Magic, and Education

What is children’s literature? Children have always been
exposed to stories and created their own, and yet what we call “children’s
literature” is a product of modernity that constructs childhood itself in
relationship to various disciplinary institutions and to adults’ desires,
fears, and everyday politics. This course has a dual focus. Thematically, we
will read texts that have been categorized as children’s literature to explore
their representations of two institutions, family and school, as well as their
appeals to magic and fantasy in order to entertain, shape, enchant, and empower
children. Illustrations and children’s literature in visual culture will be the
other important focus in this course. We will (re)read picture books, chapter
books, and YA books and compare some of them with their film adaptations. Some
of these books you’ll be very familiar with and have formed some attachment to,
and I hope that (re)reading as well as discussing them will lead to something
new; others I expect will be new to you, and I think we’ll learn from this
contrast about what is at stake, culturally and ideologically, in establishing
a children’s literature “classic” in the USA and other nations, and how what is
considered “appropriate” for children varies across time and cultures. Note
that we will not be reading much realistic fiction (except for a few picture
books) so this is a good course for you if you are into fairy tales and fantasy
as literature for children and young adults.

This is a
large-enrollment course that is open to non-majors. While there will be
as many as 60 students, English 385 is designed to be interactive: discussion,
questions, and presentations are built into the course.

Course Requirements:

  • mandatory
    attendance and active participation/collaboration
  • informal
    writing assignments posted to the class
  • research
    project on fairy tales across cultures
  • one
    short paper
  • one
    individual presentation on a picture book
  • watching
    several movies to prepare for discussion of group presentations
  • one
    group presentation on a filmic adaptation
  • midterm
  • final


Required Readings (available at Revolution Books, 2626 King

  • Maurice
    Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are
  • Shaun
    Tan, The Rabbits
  • Patricia
    Grace, Kuia and the Spider
  • Maria
    Tatar, trans. & ed., The Grimm
    Reader: The Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm
  • Wafa’
    Tarnowska and Carole Hénaff, The
    Arabian Nights
  • Frank
    L. Baum, The Wizard of Oz
  • Salman
    Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of
  • Catherine
    Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
  • Emma
    Donoghue, Kissing the Witch
  • Neil
    Gaiman, Coraline, The Graphic Novel
  • Carlo
    Collodi, Pinocchio
  • Roald
    Dahl, Matilda
  • Gianni
    Rodari, Tales to Change the World
  • Suzanne
    Collins, The Hunger Games

Additional essays and resources will be available on