Reading and Writing About Literature (ENGL 100 Section 003)

September 2017, MWF 11:00-12:00

Why Fairy Tales Still Matter

What, exactly, is a fairy tale? Why do some remain popular even two or three hundred years after they were first published? And why do modern writers so often return to the form, sometimes to rewrite old tales and sometimes to compose brand-new ones? In this course, we will address these questions by reading and discussing a variety of classic tales by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as well as modern versions of those tales by Emma Donoghue and Francesca Lia Block. We’ll end the term by examining a recent tale by Neil Gaiman that seems to have no literary predecessors. In lectures and discussions we’ll consider how fairy tales have been adapted to meet the needs of distinct historical periods, and how different critical approaches to the same text can yield entirely different—even competing—interpretations.

Children’s Literature (ENGL 468A Section 002)

Seven Ways of Thinking About Fairy Tales (And Their Children)

September 2017

T MWF 3:00-4:00


Children’s literature is an unusual field of study.  Children rarely write children’s books, nor have they produced a body of research on children’s literature.  Instead, adult authors write for imagined child readers, and adult academics pursue research based on the foundations of consciously (or unconsciously) constructed models of childhood. Our class will grapple with this defining problem of children’s literature—the difficulty of constructing the child reader—by applying a variety of critical approaches to European fairy tales and their descendants. We’ll begin by reading fairy tales that were published in England, Germany, France, and Russia in the 17th to 19th century. We’ll then turn to modern versions of these tales and finish by examining recent novels and graphic novels that adapt conventions of traditional fairy tales to explore the complexities of modern life. In a nod to the folklorist Max Lüthi, who saw sevens nearly everywhere he looked, I’ve chosen the following approaches for our class: interactions between text and image, socio-historical criticism, formalism, psychoanalytic theory, feminism, adaptation theory, and reader response theory. Readings will include a variety of traditional tales as well as modern works by Emma Donoghue, Francesca Lia Block, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, and Bill Willingham.

 Studies in an Eighteenth-Century Genre ENGL 358 (002)

Joseph Wright, The Wood Children (1789)

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)










The century that separates the portraits of Montagu Drake and the Wood children saw many changes in how children were understood and treated. By the end of the eighteenth century, for example, almost no one took seriously any more John Locke’s belief that children should be prepared for the demands of adult life through cold baths, hard beds, and leaky shoes; and, as Lawrence Stone notes, parental practices of giving more than one child the same name and recycling the names of dead children had more or less died out. In this course, we will examine how seventeenth- and eighteenth- century beliefs about childhood influenced writing for and about children. We will consider such matters as parent-child relations, the models of education proposed by John Locke and Jean
Jacques Rousseau, the rise of literature for children, and the commodification of childhood. Throughout the course, we will place particular emphasis on the connections between the educational theory of the time and children’s reading.