This course introduces students to a wide variety of texts written for and read by young people across more than three centuries. Throughout the semester, students explore these works' forms, content, and context, in the process dismantling common perceptions of children's literature as "simple." Writing for children 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 this course asks :


  • How are children's literature and childhood ideological constructs? What role does ideology play in forming these categories?

  • What are the defining historical ideological models of childhood?

  • How are fairy tales both socially subversive and socially conservative?

  • How can we close-read images? How can we characterize the complex relationship between images and words?

  • How might historical context encourage us towards new ways of engaging with primary material?


Assigned books (other primary texts are available online):


Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Tim Tingle, How I Became a Ghost

Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, This One Summer

Shaun Tan, The Arrival
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer

Jacqueline Woodson, Locomotion





Children's Literature: Texts and Contexts

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