Introduction to Literature: Culture and Literature: Queer Children’s Literature

Tuesday/Thursdays 10:30-11:45am 


Course Description

This course will explore the history of queer representation in children’s literatures beginning with the very first YA (Young Adult) novel to approach LGBTQ+ themes, John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. From there, we will map the major themes, changes, and artistic styles of those works of children’s media that center a queer protagonist, asking throughout how these works both respond to and shape society’s understanding of children’s gender and sexual identity. What messages do these texts send to their readers? How are they similar or dissimilar to the more common texts for young readers (for example: works by Disney, franchises like Harry Potter or Twilight, or books by John Green)?

Classes will be discussion based. While our identities may all vary, we have all been exposed to children’s literature at some point in our lives, and so every voice will matter as we uncover how and why these stories stay with us and how they shape our understanding of our world and the people in it. Over the course of the semester, you will be required to write 3 major papers and participate regularly in in-class assignments and conversation. 

Some Questions to Consider:

  • How do we define queer literature? How do we define children’s literature? When they intercept, do our definitions change?
  • How have representations of queerness changed over time? What are the stereotypes  and/or expectations of queer children’s literature?
  • How has censorship and “age appropriate” labels impacted the production and reception of queer children’s literature?
  • How does author identity impact a work of fiction?
  • What endings are allowed for queer protagonists?
  • What genres appear within the realm of queer children’s literature?
  • How does the language of “firstness” (first queer novel, first queer film, etc.) impact its reception and content?

Possible Texts (Subject to Change):

  • If You Knew Then What I Know Now, Ryan Van Meter
  • I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. by John Donovan
  • Ruby by Rosa Guy
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas

Possible Films:

  • Boys, 2014
  • Love, Simon, 2018
  • The Half of It, 2020
  • Luca, 2021

Student Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  1. Students will improve their ability to ask questions of and to read, analyze, and interpret complex literary texts, using relevant literary terminology critically and creatively. 
  2. Students will augment their knowledge of how literature is organized by historical periods, genres, cultures, and cultural formations. 
  3. Students will improve their ability to express ideas by organizing, developing and supporting a description, analysis, or argument in written formats, within the conventions of academic writing. 
  4. Students will produce a significant amount of writing such that the course fulfills the requirements of its mandatory W Focus designation (i.e. 4,000 words).