This course introduced students to a wide variety of texts written for, written by, and read by young people across more than three centuries. Throughout the semester, we explored these works' forms, content, and context, in the process dismantling common perceptions of children's literature as "simple." Children's writing invites us to reconsider sociohistorical assumptions we make about children and childhood without even realizing it. This literature also rejects easy categorization or understanding. Children's literature is not only pleasurable, it's important: these texts are consumed by people acquiring social fluency who receive and speak back in complex ways. 

 

A few of the questions we considered:

 

  • What is children's literature? How do we define it? Do we define it?

  • How do these texts produce and sustain ideological beliefs?

  • What separates children's fiction from children's poetry from children's nonfiction?

  • Who are the implied audiences for these texts?

  • What role do our past experiences with children's literature as children play in our critical engagement with these texts at the college level?

 

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Children's Literature

Harriet, who played with matches and regretted it, in Heinrich Hoffman's Struwwelpeter (1844).