English 180 - Winter, 2018

Children's Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Miller, Elizabeth
CRN: 53161
Time: TR 1:40-3:00
Location: 6 Olson


This course focuses on classic literature for children, ranging from Lewis Carroll’s _Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland_ (1865) to newer classics such as _Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone_ (1997) and _Esperanza Rising_ (2000). _Alice_ has long been considered a watershed work of children’s literature because it conceives of childhood as a special period of existence with intrinsic value, a time of rich imaginative engagement that is superior to the tedium of adulthood that follows. Carroll’s novel broke with earlier, more didactic forms of children’s literature that tended to conceive of the child as an unformed adult to be trained into civilized, grown-up behavior. Critics of children’s literature have noted that this shift, associated with the start of a “Golden Age” of children’s literature from roughly 1865-1930, occurred at the same time that child labor laws began protecting children from waged labor in factories, mills, and farms, ensuring a period of time for education before entering the labor force. We will consider in this class how such changing cultural conceptions of childhood interrelate with children’s literature. We will also examine how the child reader emerged as a new marketing category in the modern era, and will look at the adaptation of children’s classics into multiple print and visual forms, as with Disney’s reshaping of fairy tales into film. We will think about how children’s literature has changed from 1865 to the present, but also how it has stayed the same. Themes such as miniaturization and figures such as the orphan are as alive in contemporary children’s literature as they were in the nineteenth century. In this sense, we will ask what children’s literature tells us about children.


2 papers, weekly quizzes, and a final exam.


Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Bud Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson