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ENAM 0570 British Children's Literature

This tutorial examines British children's literature from its origins in early printed books through to the present day. The study of children’s literature serves as a testing ground for important questions about the acts of imaginative empathy demanded by literature, and the ethics of authorial influence. It also allows us to interrogate the assumptions we make about children and childhood, especially as connected to innocence, playfulness, naivety, freedom and creativity. We will explore primary texts in detail, and analyse some of the critical frameworks which help us to negotiate the relationship between adult and child, including narratology, postcolonial theories and feminist critiques.

There are three interrelated possible strands to our work in this tutorial. We may explore the origins of children’s literature in fairy tales and folklore (including in translation) and the development into print; the notion of ‘childhood’ as a concept, especially in the period between Locke and Rousseau; and the mature genre of children’s literature which makes up a canon of modern classics. Throughout we will interrogate themes of universal importance to the study of modern literature such as familial relationships; travel and displacement; interaction with the natural world; friendship; adolescence and coming-of-age; magic and mythology; education and psychological development; religion and morality.

Sample texts might include: 

John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)

Isaac Watts, Divine and Moral Songs for Children (c. 1715)

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (c. 1789)

John Ruskin, The King of the Golden River (1841)

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (1865)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1881)

Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince (1888)

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894), Just-So Stories (1902)

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (1905)

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)

Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)

Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

Philip Pullman, Northern Lights (1995)

Prohibited combination: this tutorial cannot be taken alongside the Inklings tutorial or seminar.

Over 25 years on
I attended CMRS over 25 years ago; now I live outside Washington, DC, where I practice law before the federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Cour...
Greg Castanias, Autumn Semester 1985, Wabash College