Office: Pray-Harrold 603L
Office hours: mon/wed 12:15-2 p.m.; wed 5-6:30
p.m. and by appointment
Email: awannamak AT emich DOT edu
Web page: http://www.emich.edu/public/english/childlit
Course Description and
Students studying children’s
literature at the graduate level, who will go on to doctoral
programs or on to jobs as teachers, librarians or writers
and publishers of children’s literature, need to know
how to actively and thoughtfully engage in current discussions
in the field of children’s literature. This course is
designed to provide students with the reading and writing
skills needed to pursue further study and to stay current
in the field as a professional.
This course is devoted to reading
and writing about children’s literature and literary
criticism specific to the field of children’s literature.
Students will learn about past and current discussions in
the field that will help them to enter into and take part
in critical dialogues.
Students will complete a series
of reading and writing assignments, which are structured so
that the terms, concepts, and skills students learn as they
progress throughout the term build upon one another and culminate
in a final writing project and presentation. Students also
will give brief oral presentations at the end of the term
to help them to practice another way of presenting scholarly
ideas to an audience of readers. Finally, there will be a
final exam on the reading assigned during the course.
The final exam serves dual purposes:
first, students will demonstrate they comprehend the texts
read for class and that they are able to synthesize ideas
by putting a variety of theoretical texts and concepts into
dialogue with one another and, second, the exam serves as
a practice run for the MA exam students take in order to complete
the Program, which follows a similar format.
There are a total of six writing
assignments, five of which require students to follow specific
instructions. For the sixth and final project, students will
research and write about a scholarly topic of their choosing,
which will be presented in two formats: each student will
write a 10-page paper suitable for delivery at an academic
conference and each student will present a shortened version
of this paper to the class in an 8-minute presentation. I
am hoping this final assignment will help students to use
theory and criticism in their own scholarship and to see themselves
as scholars and theorists entering into a larger conversation.
A long-term goal of the course is for students to learn to
effectively incorporate theory and criticism into their writing
projects for other graduate classes, the MA thesis, the MA
exam, and in scholarly publications and presentations.
All student work for the course
will be evaluated on the comprehension and application of
current critical theories, terms, and debates, on the ability
to conduct research, and on the quality of the writing. The
quality of writing will be evaluated based on audience awareness,
organization, correctness, adherence to MLA citation guidelines,
and on the effective use of evidence to build a convincing
argument or interpretation.
Course Requirements and
1,000 points total: 940-1000 = A; 900-939 =
A-; 870-899 = B+; 840-869 = B; etc.
Final Exam: 20 percent
80 percent (800 points):
Reading and Writing Schedule:
Wednesday, September 3: Questions
How do we read children’s literature?
What assumptions do we bring to texts written for children?
What assumptions do we make about the child reader of a text
or about childhood in general? In what ways are these assumptions
correct or incorrect or contradictory or even fictions we
tell ourselves about children? Do we need different strategies
for reading texts for children? Do we need different sorts
of literary and cultural theories than one might need to study
literature written for adults? Why should we study criticism
and theory at all?
Strategies for reading theory and criticism
10: Strategies for reading children’s literature
May, Jill. “Reading,
Discussing, and Interpreting Children’s Literature”
in Children’s Literature and Critical Theory. On
Nodelman, Perry and Mavis Reimer. “How
to Read Children’s Literature” in The Pleasures
of Children’s Literature. Third Edition. On e-reserve.
Babbit, Natalie. “Happy Endings? Of
Course, and Also Joy” pp 4-8 in Reader.
Wednesday, September 17: The Canon and (not) Children’s
Clark, Beverly Lyon. “Kids
and Kiddie Lit” and “Kiddie Lit in the Academy”
in Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children’s
Literature in America. On e-reserve.
Thacker, Deborah. “Disdain or Ignorance?
Literary Theory and the Absence of Children’s Literature”
in The Lion and the Unicorn 24 (2000). On e-reserve.
Writing Assignment No. 1 (summary)
Due: Summary of Thacker essay due. Summary must be
no more than 250 words, and should be an objective paragraph
highlighting Thacker’s thesis and main points.
Wednesday, September 24: Constructing
the Child: History
Jenkins, Henry. “Introduction:
Childhood Innocence and Other Modern Myths” in The
Children’s Culture Reader. On e-reserve.
Aries, Philippe. “From Immodesty to
Innocence” in The Children’s Culture Reader.
Adams, Gillian. “Medieval Children’s
Literature: Its Possibility and Actuality,” pp. 43-64
Flynn, Richard. “The Children's Culture
Reader (review)” The Lion and the Unicorn -
Volume 24, Number 3, September 2000. On e-reserve.
Writing Assignment No. 2 (synthesis)
Due: Write a brief report that is no more than 500
words that summarizes the different (sometimes conflicting)
points of view presented in these three essays and book review
about the historical construction of the Child and Childhood.
Wednesday, October 1: Ideology and/in
Hollindale, Peter. “Ideology
and the Children’s Book.” Signal 55 (1988)
3-22. On e-reserve.
Sarland, Charles. “The Impossibility
of Innocence: Ideology, Politics, and Children’s Literature”
in Understanding Children’s Literature (ed.
Peter Hunt). On e-reserve.
Hunt, Peter. “Passing on the Past:
The Problem of Books That Are for Children and That Were for
Children,” pp. 65-71 in Reader.
Gannon, Susan R. “Report from Limbo:
Reading Historical Children’s Literature Today.”
pp. 71-80 in Reader.
Writing Assignment No. 3 (evaluation)
Due: Write a brief response to the reading for today’s
class that is no more than 500 words: With which author do
you most agree, and why?
Wednesday, October 8: Reading Children’s
Literature from the Past: Peter Pan
Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan.
In class: Discuss Peter
Pan and spend a few minutes discussing the conventions
of the academic book review to prepare for Writing Assignment
No. 4. Students will sign up to review one of the works of
current criticism on reserve at the Halle Library front desk.
Wednesday, October 15: Impossible
Rose, Jacqueline. “The
Return of Peter Pan” and “Peter Pan and Freud”
in The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children’s
Fiction. On e-reserve.
Nodelman, Perry. “Fear of Children’s
Literature: What’s Left (or Right) After Theory?”
pp. 312-324 in Reader.
Wednesday, October 22: Alice
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s
Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking
Glass in Gray, Donald J. Alice in Wonderland: A Norton
Critical Edition. Second Edition. New York: Norton, 1992.
Writing assignment No. 4 (book review)
Due: Write a review that is no more than 1000 words
of one of the academic books on reserve in the EMU Library.
Students will choose and sign up for books on Oct. 8.
Wednesday, October 29:
Criticism section in Norton Critical Edition
of Alice in Wonderland: all essays.
Wednesday, November 5: Reading folktales
Tatar, Maria. “Introduction”
in The Classic Fairy Tales: A Norton Critical Edition.
“Little Red Riding Hood” section:
“Introduction” and all variations in Tatar.
“Snow White” section: “Introduction”
and all variations in Tatar.
Propp, Vladimir. “Folklore and Literature”
Shavit, Zohar. “The Concept of Childhood
and Children’s Folk Tales: Test Case – ‘Little
Red Riding Hood’” in Tatar.
Gilbert and Gubar. “Snow White and
Her Wicked Stepmother” in Tatar.
Wednesday, November 12: Folktales
cont.: films and literary tales
Hastings, Waller. “Moral
Simplification in Disney’s The Little Mermaid,”
pp. 279-288 in Reader.
Andersen, Hans Christian. “The Little
Mermaid” in Tatar.
Zipes, Jack. “Breaking the Disney Spell”
Brothers Grimm “Hansel and Gretel”
Charles Perault “Little Thumbling”
Joseph Jacobs “Molly Whuppie”
Bettelheim, Bruno. “The Struggle for
Meaning” and “Hansel and Gretel” in Tatar.
Darnton, Robert. “Peasants tell tales:
The Meaning of Mother Goose” in Tatar.
Writing Assignment No. 5 (study of
scholarship in the field) Due: Write a paper that
is no more than 1250 words that summarizes the major journals
in the discipline. What are the major journals? Skim through
recent issues and look at some articles, book reviews, bibliographies,
lists of doctoral dissertations. What are people currently
writing about? What topics, books, names or terms do you see
over and over? What conclusions can you draw about current
conversations in the field?
Wednesday, November 19: Reading Contemporary
Stevenson, Deborah. “Narrative
in Picture Books or, The Paper That Should Have Had Slides”
pp. 92-104 in Reader.
McCloud, Scott. From “Understanding
Comics” 109-117 in Reader.
O’Sullivan, Emer. “Translating
Pictures,” pp. 117-126 in Reader.
Mackey, Margaret. “Playing in the Phase
Space: Contemporary Forms of Fictional Pleasure,” pp.
324-342 in Reader.
Altmann, Anna.“Parody and Poesis in
Feminist Fairy Tales,” pp 178-189 in Reader.
26: No Class meeting. Thanksgiving Break.
Wednesday, December 3: Reading Multicultural
Cai, Mingshui. “Introduction”
in Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults:
Reflections on Critical Issues on e-reserve.
Martin, Michelle. “From Ten Little
Niggers to Afro-Bets: Images of Blackness in Picture Books
for Young Readers, 1870s to 2000s” in Brown Gold:
Milestones of African-American Children’s Picture Books,
1845-2002 on e-reserve.
Rochman, Hazel. “Introduction: Beyond
Political Correctness” pp. 25-39 in Reader.
10: Final exam on reading for the course.
Wednesday, December 17: Mini-conference.
Each student will present her or his research
to the class in an 8-minute oral presentation,
which can be an informal talk, a PPT Presentation, or a reading
of an edited 4-page version of the paper. Annette will provide
snacks and treats.
Writing Assignment No. 6 (research
project) Due: Each student will turn in a 10-page
(maximum of 2,500 words) version of their research project.