The Development of British Children's Literature (TRU3046)

30 credits

The Development of British Children’s Literature investigates the history of writing for children in Britain, chronologically from its beginnings to the present. In addition to examining many books now considered ‘classics’ of the genre, it also considers texts that are now largely forgotten but which were once avidly read by eighteenth and nineteenth-century children. Among the issues to be investigated will be the relationship of children’s literature to evolving definitions of the child, the representation of gender, class, age, and nationality in children’s literature, and the development, uses, and effects of some of the key features of the genre – including anthropomorphism, allegory, and fantasy. The module will consider the twin roles of didacticism and entertainment in writing for children, and the history of their interactions within the genre. It will focus on problems such as the inherent power-dynamics of a literature written by adults for children, and the dual audience of books designed to be read aloud to children. Finally it will address the question of how we, as adult readers, can best evaluate the critical and literary value of children’s literature. The course is most suitable for students who have already taken modules in nineteenth-century and twentieth-century literature, but should also appeal to students who have taken History modules covering those periods. There are at least two main primary texts to be studied for each week of this course, but most of the required books are available in very cheap, paperback editions.