Program in Children's Literature: Courses
This course will focus on 20th Century American Children's Picturebooks by examining several themes: (1) The history of American childhood during the 20th century; (2) Socio- political context for the production of children's books during this period (World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Cold War); (3) The lives of Ruth Krauss (1901-1993, author of The Carrot Seed & A Hole Is to Dig) and Crockett Johnson (1906-1975, author-illustrator of Harold and the Purple Crayon); and (4) the many people with whom their lives intersected -- Maurice Sendak, Ursula Nordstrom (mentor and editor to Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown, Shel Silverstein and E. B. White), Margaret Mead, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Ad Reinhardt, Syd Hoff, and Dr. Seuss.
You must be at least a junior to enroll in this course. When ready, syllabus will be available here: <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/childlit/680.html>.
Children’s literature is political. In this class, we will read children’s books by left-leaning authors, children’s books that have been perceived as leftist, and the definitive work on the subject: Julia Mickenberg’s Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature and Radical Politics in the United States. We will also read stories by Munro Leaf, Dr. Seuss, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Syd Hoff, Carl Sandburg, Lois Gould, Jay Williams, and many others. In so doing, we will map radical traditions of children’s literature, examining what makes a book leftist (and what does not), and investigate how ideologies of the left inform (and do not inform) books for children.
Syllabus available here: <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/childlit/radical/>.
This course traces the development of children's literature in America from The New England Primer to the present. In part, the course traces the influence of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress on American children's literature. In addition, we will study evolving constructions of gender, race, and class in American children's literature. Along the way, we'll study children's periodicals, textbooks, and poetry. In class participation, two papers, two midterm exams, and a final exam.
This class explores connections between children's literature and twentieth-century left-leaning political movements. We will read children's books by left-leaning authors, children's books that have been perceived as leftist, and books about the Left. In so doing, we will map radical traditions of children's literature, examining what makes a book leftist (and what does not), and investigate how ideologies of the left inform (and do not inform) books for children. Literary texts include Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand (1936), Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories (1923), Langston Hughes' The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932), Garth Williams' The Rabbits' Wedding (1955), Leo Lionni's Swimmy (1963) and Frederick (1967), Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who! (1954) and The Sneetches (1961), Lois Gould's X: A Fabulous Child's Story (1978). Secondary readings include Julia Mickenberg's Learning from the Left: Children's Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States, Michael Denning's The Cultural Front, and selections from Herb Kohl's Should We Burn Babar?
Syllabus available here: <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/childlit/690.html>.
This course will survey generally accepted "classics" of children's literature to answer the question: "What is a classic?" Texts being considered are Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Kipling's Just So Stories, and C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In addition to reading acknowledged classics, students will read criticism about canon-formation and literary taste. Evaluation will be based on active class participation, 2 exams, and a term paper.
Should "classic children's literature" be defined by what has been made into a Disney movie? This course, designed for upper-level English majors and graduate students, explores classics of English and American children's literature from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and important criticism, asking the question: what is a classic? Texts being considered are Little Women, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, The Water-Babies, The Light Princess, The Story of the Amulet, The Story of the Treasure-Seekers, The Secret Garden, Just-So Stories, The Jungle Book, The Wind in the Willows, Anne of Green Gables. Evaluation will be based on exams and a research paper.
In this course we will read a range of English-language children’s and young adult literature from around the world (e.g. South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland), and work towards developing multicultural competencies as defined by the Tilford Group (see http://www.k-state.edu/tilford/MulticulturalCompetencies.htm). Texts read may include Does My Head Look Big in This? and The Day Gogo Went to Vote. In doing so, we will consider the ways in which understandings of “the child” and “the nation” are used to reinforce or interrogate received ideas about society and culture. You will be introduced to theoretical and critical concepts such as “authenticity,” “diversity,” “hybridity,” and “postcolonialism,” and some of the ways such concepts may help us approach children’s literature as critical readers and thinkers. Assessment will include an oral presentation, papers, and exams.
This course will focus on the shaping of American history through children's literature: the later 19th century, captured by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her "Little House" series; and the 20th century, depicted by Mildred Taylor in her Logan family series. We will read a significant number of the authors' primary works in addition to other relevant children's novels such as Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House and Carol Ryrie Brink's Caddie Woodlawn. We'll learn more about Wilder's biography and the issues of authorship concerning her series, and we'll learn why Taylor was moved to research and write about her own family history. We'll examine critical reactions to these works; we'll also examine the first edition illustrations for the Little House series. In addition, we'll consider how these texts fit into contemporary discussions about American history, culture, and identity. Major assignments: two papers, three exams (including a non-comprehensive final), readings quizzes, and possibly listserve or other discussion requirements.
This course showcases what illustrations contribute to classic children's literature. Beginning with the work of theorists and scholars such as Moebius, Nodelman, and others, students will study the pictorial aspects of key texts in children's literature. In one unit, students will study selected folk tales and nursery rhymes which have been illustrated by different illustrators. In other units, students will study a series of picture books that have appeared with different illustrations at different times (possibly including Munsch's Love You Forever, Hurd's The Runaway Bunny, and others). Additionally, students will study the role of illustration in classic children's novels, including the original and revised illustrations for Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series and a range of illustrators' interpretations of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. Grappling with the visual characteristics of these and other texts, students should emerge with a greater understanding of the literature as well as greater analytical abilities.
English 710 provides the tools for advanced study of children's literature. Because it is a 700-level class, this course is intended primary for graduate students. It will focus on distinctive issues in treating children's literature as an academic subject. General themes: nonsense and pastoral, didacticism and pleasure, orality and literacy, old and new historicisms, questions of audience, issues of equity and diversity. Theorists will probably include excerpts and full articles from Freud, Jung, and their heirs; from Foucault; Jacqueline Rose, Susan Stewart, Peter Hunt, Ruth Bottigheimer, W.J.T. Mitchell, Henry Louis Gates, and Rudine Sims Bishop.
We will explore the genres of fantasy and science fiction (and a bit of horror) in relation to such questions as: How does genre “matter”? What challenges and pleasures can fantasy and science fiction each bring to the act of reading, to readers? What possibilities are added to the reading experience when we read “literally” as well as metaphorically? While the required novels will feature child or young adult protagonists undergoing some kind of quest, rite of passage, or discovery of an enveloping destiny/ideology, the short stories will not necessarily have been written for younger readers. Requirements will include reading quizzes, a presentation or other small group project, a midterm and final, and a critical essay. Required texts will include a coursepak with critical materials and short stories as well as eight novels, probably including the following: Alan Garner, The Owl Service (1967), Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968); Tanith Lee, Biting the Sun (includes Don’t Bite the Sun, 1976, and Drinking Sapphire Wine, 1977); Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (1985); Garth Nix, Sabriel (1995); Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion (2002); Neil Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Mary E. Pearson, The Adoration of Jenna Fox (2008).
We will study examples of the heroic quest, the retold fairy tale, the future history (utopian and dystopian) and the “borderland” fantasy and will consider how the narratives thematize intertextuality, history, and education as well as offering versions of the Bildungsroman. Required texts will include a coursepak with critical materials and short stories as well as about eight novels, probably including the following: J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit; Robin McKinley, Beauty; Jane Yolen, Briar Rose; Emma Bull, Finder; Robert Heinlein, Have Space Suit, Will Travel; Nancy Farmer, House of the Scorpion; Octavia E. Butler Parable of the Sower; Garth Nix, Shade’s Children.
In 1865, Alice in Wonderland forever changed the landscape of children's literature. The first widely read children's book with no obvious moral agenda or lesson, a book that celebrated childhood reason and imagination, Alice in Wonderland both grew out of and changed the culture of childhood. This course will examine the "Golden Age" of children's literature in England between 1863 and about 1930, which witnessed the birth of such classics as The Water-Babies (1863), At the Back of the North Wind (1871), Treasure Island (1883), The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), Peter Pan (1902-06), Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and many others. This course will explore the relationships among these texts and their historical and cultural contexts, including the cult of childhood, the rise of public education, contemporary debates about the status of literature, the repudiation of fantasy by "adult" literature, and other topics. Evaluation will likely include exams, quizzes, and an article-length paper (20-25 pp.).
In 1807, Charles and Mary Lamb published Tales from Shakespeare, the first prose adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays for child readers ever published in English. In the two centuries since then, adaptations and appropriations of Shakespeare’s plays for child readers have spread throughout the Anglophone world in picture books, comic books, novels, plays, television and films. In this reading-intensive course we will examine Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Othello, and versions of them produced for child audiences from the nineteenth century into the twenty-first century. In doing so, we will consider questions of authority and authenticity, cultural value, canonicity, and notions of authorship. As we move through each play and its afterlives, we will take theorized approaches to constructions of youth, gender, sexuality, and race, and will do so in order to see how and what Shakespeare is made to ‘mean’ when offered to contemporary child readers. Beyond prose adaptations, texts examined will include novels such as MacB, Cupid Painted Blind, and The Juliet Club; movies will include Romeo + Juliet, Get Over It!, and O; we will also be engaging with selected episodes of television’s Animated Tales from Shakespeare. Assessment will include an oral presentation, two short written pieces, a long research paper, and exams. This course will be accepted for undergraduate Women's Studies credit as well as for the Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies.
Focusing on two of the funniest, most beloved, and widely read American authors, this course examines the late-nineteenth-century careers of Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain from their early travel sketch writing to their autobiographical writings and most famous classic works. We will also read and explore each authors' darker and lesser-known writings, such as Alcott's early thrillers and Twain's scathing late essays and short fiction. Gender and race in literature, styles of American humor, the emergence of children's literature as a genre, the cultural work of their writing, and their continuing presence in American literature and culture will all be important topics of study. The books for the course include: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Innocents Abroad, Selected Shorter Writings of Mark Twain, Little Women, Little Men, Eights Cousins, The Sketches of Louisa May Alcott, and The Portable Louisa May Alcott. The semester's work will include two short analytical papers, a presentation, a research paper, and a final examination.
This course will feature important works in literature for children and adults that have been adapted into films. We will read the source texts, whenever possible; in addition, we may view multiple film versions of works, when applicable. We also will read some theory, including at least some of Linda Hutcheon's A Theory of Adaptation, and some criticism of individual films as well. Among the works we will study are the Grimms' and Disney's versions of Snow White (1937); Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) and multiple ensuing film adaptations; de Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast" with Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete (1946) and Disney's animated version (1991); Burnett's A Little Princess (1905) and the 1939 and 1995 films based on it; short films based on Burton's The Little House (1942) and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939), Leaf and Lawson's The Story of Ferdinand (1936), and Lobel's Frog and Toad series (1970-); S. Morgenstern's The Princess Bride (1973) and Reiner's 1987 film; and others. This course is limited to graduate students; each student will give a class presentation on one of the films and submit a substantive paper based on that film. In addition, the course will culminate in a "film festival" at which we will screen short (5 minute) films that we have made based on single scenes from classic children's and adolescent literature we did not study as a class. Final papers will be the "directors' commentaries" for those short films.
Focusing on two of the funniest, most beloved, and widely read American authors, this course examines the late-nineteenth-century careers of Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain from their early travel sketch writing to their autobiographical writings and most famous classic works. We will also read and explore each authors' darker and lesser-known writings, such as Alcott's early thrillers and Twain's scathing late essays and short fiction. Gender, ethnicity, and race in literature, styles of American humor, the emergence of children's literature as a genre, the cultural work of their writing, and their continuing presence in American literature and culture will all be important topics of study.The reading for the course includes Roughing It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Hospital Sketches, Moods, Little Women, Eight Cousins, several shorter works by both authors, a biography of each author, and contemporary criticism on the work of both authors. The course requirements include active participation in seminar discussions, a class presentation, and a critical essay of around 20 pages or so.
This course offers an examination of the history and theory of sequential art -- what Scott McCloud has called "the invisible art." We'll read comics criticism, comics, and graphic novels. Likely texts include works by McCloud, Eisner, Beaty, Kunzle, Hatfield (all critics); McCay, Herriman, Schulz, Watterson (comics); Töpffer, Tezuka, Spiegelman, Bechdel (graphic novels).
Syllabus available here: <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/childlit/830comics.html>.
The seminar will examine the visual and verbal codes of illustrated works, as well as the relationship between these works and the conditions of their production. We will read picture books, graphic novels, comix, and comics. We will also read criticism on such works, including: Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics; W.J.T. Mitchell's Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology; Molly Bang's Picture This: How Pictures Work; and Perry Nodelman's Words About Pictures. Illustrators/artists may include: Charles Addams, Lynda Barry, Anthony Browne, Virginia Lee Burton, Randolph Caldecott, W.W. Denslow, Jan Eliot, Wanda Gag, Kate Greenaway, Edward Gorey, Herblock, George Larson, Edward Lear, Leo Lionni, David Macaulay, Winsor McCay, Aaron McGruder, Robert Minor, Christopher Myers, Kay Nielsen, Dav Pilkey, Beatrix Potter, Chris Raschka, Peggy Rathmann, Ad Rinhardt, Faith Ringgold, Allen Say, Charles Schulz, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Art Spiegelman, William Steig, Ann Telnaes, John Tenniel, G.B. Trudeau, Tasha Tudor, Chris Van Allsburg, Lynd Ward, Chris Ware, Bill Watterson, David Wiesner, and Art Young.
Syllabus available here: <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/childlit/830.html>.
What is childhood? Is it fluffy and pink? Is it best figured alongside lambs and flowers? Or is it subject to hellfire, a degraded state in desperate need of redemption, best associated with chastisement and penance? Should children be rational, or should they be imaginative? This seminar focuses on the origin and development of concepts of childhood, reflected in children's literature, that we continue to use today. In addition to reading early texts of children's literature such as A Token for Children being an exact account of the conversion, holy and exemplary lives and joyful deaths, of several young children, The History of Margery Two-Shoes (or, as she is better known: Goody Two-Shoes), and The Parent's Assistant, we'll read early educational texts that theorize childhood and its place in human society, and an adult novel or two (Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Charlotte Brönte's Jane Eyre, and George Eliot's Mill on the Floss are being considered). Ultimately the class aims to provide enough context for students to use the wealth of offerings of Hale Library's microfiche copies of the Opie Collection of Children's Literature. Expectations: Active class participation, weekly response papers, article-length paper.
Department of English