The course will explore secondary and theoretical texts in the field of Children’s and Young Adult literature to explore how scholars develop their research—and their methodological and theoretical underpinnings as they do so. A number of the books and articles we cover will be those honored with prizes by the Children’s Literature Association—but not all of them. Critical methods explored might include historicism, critical race theory, feminist theory, object-oriented-ontology, psychoanalysis, visual and sound studies, the new formalism, affect theory, postcolonial theory, popular culture theory and criticism (esp. film and television), genre theory, material culture approaches, and childhood studies approaches.
Scope of our Seminar
What our seminar is not:
* Literary theory “applied” to children’s books/ representations of all possible theoretical approaches to children’s literature. I have deliberately chosen a wide range of critical methodologies, and tried to make sure that you are reading a lot of theoretically informed work, but I am unable to cover every school of literary theory. Many of the works we will consider are eclectic (even quirky) in their approach, and it may even be hard to position them within a theoretical school (which is more than fine with me).
A helpful text for you to consult if you are interested in a theoretical overview of literary theory as it intersects with children’s/ YA literature is The Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature, ed. David Rudd. Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2010.
Philip Nel and Lissa Paul’s Keywords for Children’s Literature (New York and London: New York University Press, 2001) is also very helpful.
* A general survey of literary theory. If you’re interested in a book that might offer a capsule introduction to literary theory, there are a few I would recommend. I can get those placed on reserve for you, so that you can explore them at your leisure.
* A representative survey of children’s and YA literature, or an overview of the history of children’s/ YA literature. Here are some texts that offer that kind of historical overview:
- M. O. Grenby and Andrea Immel, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Children’s Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 324 pages. ISBN: 978-0521687829.
- Peter Hunt, ed. Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History. Associate editors Dennis Butts, Ethel Heins, Margaret Kinnell, and Tony Watkins. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. 374 pages. ISBN: 978-0192123206.
- Seth Lerer, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2008. 400 pages. ISBN: 978-0226473017.
- Kimberly Reynolds, Children’s Literature: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 152 pages. ISBN: 978-0199560240.
The textbook I co-wrote with Eric Tribunella, Reading Children’s Literature: A Critical Introduction (Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2013), covers a lot of the basics as well—including the history of children’s literature, major genres and major debates in the field.
- A detailed look at one theme, period or theoretical approach to children’s literature.