English 80K

Children's Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Creasy, CFS
TTh 9:30-11 159 Mulford

Other Readings and Media

Tentative book list:  Ballantyne, R. M.: The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean: Barrie, J. M.: Peter and Wendy; Carroll, Lewis: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There; Dr. Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Fleming, Ian: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car; Lewis, C. S.: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Musil, Robert: The Confusions of Young Törless; Oates, Joyce Carol: Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang; Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Sendak, Maurice: Where the Wild Things Are; Thompson, Kay: Eloise; Tiqqun: Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl


This course has two principal aims: (1) to provide an overview of the history of children's literature in English; (2) to introduce students to the major generic, political, aesthetic, and philosophical questions such literature has posed. Among these latter, for example, we will consider such issues as: the purpose of education; the nature and ethics of infantile sexuality; the mechanisms of language acquisition; the category of "innocence"; violence and violent desire; child labor; didactic and fantastical modes of address; the infant-animal relationship; embodied differences of gender, race, sexuality, and (dis)ability; peer pressure.

We will treat as axiomatic the notion that the "child" is a contingent and constructed object, always reinvented to suit the needs of its historical moment. From the supine and quiescent darlings of Christina Rossetti's nursery rhymes, to the gurgling and adorable brat Eloise, through the dashing and manly boys promoted by R. M. Ballantyne and Rudyard Kipling, the children described in children's literature very often seem tailor-made to serve the interests of the powerful. We will not, then, make generalizations about what children are, what children like, or what children know. But we will wonder together whether the inverse is true too, and that something in the infantile attachments we feel towards children's literature might also resist conscription into the normative mechanisms of maturity.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List