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Undergraduate English Courses

358:435 Children's Literature, Then and Now

01  MTH1  CAC  14775    GULYA   MU-111

 Children's Literature, Then and Now

In seventeenth-century England, there was no such category as “children’s literature.” But by the end of the eighteenth century, there had been an explosion of texts targeted specifically at young readers—including novels, periodicals, and collections of poetry. This course is based on the premise that the period from 1660 to about 1780, often called the Age of Reason, is pivotal to the creation of children’s literature. How do various seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts lay the ground for the flowering of children’s literature in the modern period? How do they shed light on what scholars have called “the invention of childhood”?

We will start with seventeenth-century texts, including James Janeway’s description of various children’s deaths in A Token for Children (1671) and John Bunyan’s compilation of stories and poems in A Book for Boys and Girls (1686). We will then turn to several eighteenth-century versions of children’s literature: Sarah Fielding’s The Governess (1749), which is often described as the first children’s novel, Oliver Goldsmith’s delightful The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765), Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786), and others. In the final section of the course, we will turn to more modern versions of the form—perhaps Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911), Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), or Jacqueline Woodson’s Locomotion (2010). We will also watch film versions of some of these texts. The point is to use modern examples in order to improve both our understandings eighteenth-century versions of children's literature and our understandings of the modern texts.

The course will appeal to students interested in the eighteenth century as well as those interested in modern children’s literature and psychology, visual studies, and education. Students will be expected to contribute regularly to class discussion, to complete 2 close reading assignments, and to write 2 papers.