English 468A/99C: Children’s Literature (January 2018)

ENGL 468A/99C: You Are Now Entering the Wider World: Children’s/YA Literature – Gisèle M. Baxter

Children’s Literature
Term 2
This section of ENGL 468 is offered online.

“You are always in danger in the forest, where no people are” – Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves”

Children’s literature so often focuses on successful (or not so successful) negotiation of the threats and learning opportunities in the intimate and public worlds around the child that “children’s” tales are often more intense (and even more scary) than adult fiction. Not surprisingly, children’s literature has long been the focus of both fascination and controversy, and only more recently of full-on academic (theorizing) attention. In this course, we will study a broad selection of texts through a literary/cultural studies lens, exploring their (sometimes) evolving genre features and the ways assumptions about audiences have shifted over time and according to various theorists.

We’ll start with familiar (and not-so-familiar) oral-tradition folk/fairytales, to consider how their recurring devices establish tropes still commonly used in children’s adventure-quest stories. Then we will stray from the path and consider how texts that assume a mostly young readership might challenge or subvert perceived boundaries and conventions, especially in representing both that point of realization that a wider world exists, and the discoveries and adventures that arise once it has been entered.

Text List

  • Folk and Fairy Tales (Broadview, 4th edition)
  • Custom Course Materials package for ENGL 468A/99C (this will only be available through the UBC Bookstore)
  • L.M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside
  • Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Alexei Panshin, Rite of Passage
  • Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (the second volume in the His Dark Materials trilogy)
  • Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki, Skim

Evaluation will be based on two short literary textual analyses (worth 10% and 20%); a term paper requiring use of current academic research (worth 30%); and an essay-based final exam (30%: you must write and pass the exam to pass the course). There is a participation mark (10%: based on weekly contribution to online discussion).

Note: This course is not designed for people with children or who work with children, and we will not (nostalgically or speculatively) try to read the texts as children might; we will be reading them as adult scholars in literary studies. I strongly suggest looking up all the novels so that you’ll know something about them in deciding to take the course.

© Gisèle M. Baxter. Not to be copied, used, shared, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.

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