Philip Nel > Courses > English 703: Critical Approaches to Literature (Spring 2011)

English 703: Critical Approaches to Children's Literature
Required Texts
Message Board
Schedule of Assignments
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: M 3:30-5:00 p.m., W 9:15-10:15 a.m.
& by appointment.
MWF 11:30- 12:20 p.m.
EH 228
Last updated Monday, February 21, 2011

Required Texts:


       This course provides tools for advanced study of children's literature. As a 700-level class, the primary audience is graduate students. The class will focus on key texts in children's literature and key issues in treating children's literature as an academic subject.  

        In this class, education will not be a passive experience: I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas. This requires that you not only be present but that you be an active presence.

  Points Due
Response Papers 150 Roughly very other week, day reading is due.
Class Participation & 200 Daily.
Message Board Weekly.
Leading Class Discussion 50 See schedule.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, Mar. 4
Paper 200 In class, April 29; abstract due April 13.
Final Exam 200 Due in my office by 1:50 pm., May 11.
Total 1000  

Requirements: Paper | Response Papers | Class Participation and Attendance | Leading Class Discussion | Technology | Message Board | Assignments

       Paper: The paper must be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Remember: You must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <>.

        Response Papers: You will also write five response papers (2 pp. in length) in response to our readings. Response papers are designed to ready you for class discussion and to explore ideas you could develop further in your longer paper. They are due the day indicated on the syllabus and must address the reading for that day. In your response paper, you should not repeat previous class discussions or provide a mere summary of the reading. Instead, your response should begin to analyze the reading assigned for that class session, selecting an issue or theme or question you feel to be significant. I recommend that you select a word, phrase, image, two-page spread (if a picture book or comic), or short quotation from the reading to initiate your response. That selection can be from the criticism or from a literary text; you might even apply the criticism to the literary text. Responses will be graded on a 30-point scale: 30-27=A, 26-24=B, 23-21=C, 20-18=D, <17=F. I do not accept late response papers.

        Class Participation and Attendance: Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. "The reading" is all the text assigned for that day. We make sense of literature by discussing it. For this reason, class participation will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class and out of it, via the Message Board (explained below). I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Class attendance is required. Since the class meets three times a week, you are granted three absences, but more than three will lower your final grade by one increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
        If you have medical reason for doing so, you may (if you provide documentation to me at the start of the term) use a portable computer for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you lack such a reason, then you must put your laptop away during class. Similarly, out of common courtesy, you may not text-message during class. And turn off your cell phone.
        Leading Class Discussion:
       Students will sign up in pairs to initiate discussion for one of our class sessions. Questions for class discussion (4-5 in number) should highlight issues or themes or queries you think we should address in our class discussion of the reading assigned for that day. After conferring about and drafting the questions, groups leading discussion should email me their questions by 7 p.m. the night before; I will confirm receipt and offer any suggestions for the order or focus of the questions.
       This syllabus is on-line, available through the "Courses" section of my homepage: <>. I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed resources, and provided links to the paper assignments.

        Message Board: Post comments to the message board once a week (or more frequently, if you wish). An average posting should run one or two paragraphs in length. In other words, your postings do not need to be long, but they must be substantive -- long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments, as appropriate. I will monitor these discussions and asses a grade (at the end of the semester) based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, and their responsiveness to both our readings and to your classmates in comments on the message board. Though extra postings to the message board will not automatically replace participation in class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can improve your class participation grade.

       Access the message board via K-State On-Line.

  1. Log in to our class on K-State On-Line.
  2. At left, choose the "Message Board."

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. Due to the increased volume of spam, messages without clear subject lines will be deleated unread. You can write with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in my office, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I check email several times daily, but I am not on-line at all times.


Schedule of Assignments
Subject to change.

[W] = Web. [CP] = Class Pack. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [PH] = Peter Hunt's Understanding Children's Literature.

Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.

Orality and Didacticism
January W 19 Introduction. Peter Hunt, "Introduction: the expanding world of Children's Literature Studies" (2005) [PH]; Eve Merriam, The Inner City Mother Goose (1969). Note: I don't expect you to have these read on day 1. I'll bring Merriam with me, and my lecture will draw upon Hunt and others.
F 21 "The Story of Grandmother" (n.d.); Charles Perrault, “Red Riding Hood” (1697); Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “Little Red Cap” (1812); Bruno Bettelheim, "Little Red Riding Hood," from The Uses of Enchantment (1976) [CP]; excerpt from Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (1993) [CP]; Yvonne Verdier, "Little Red Riding Hood in Oral Translation" (1997) [CP]
M 24 Jean-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, “Beauty and the Beast” (1756) [CP]; Giovanni Francesco Straparola, “The Pig King" [CP]; Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” (1812); Maria Tatar (1999) [CP]; Walter J. Ong, Chapter 3 ("Some psychodynamics of orality") from Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982) [CP]
W 26 Mary Wollestonecraft, from Moral Conversations and Stories (1788) [CP]; Mitzi Myers, "Impeccable Governesses, Rational Dames, and Moral Mothers" (1986) [CP]; Maria Edgeworth, "The Story of the Purple Jar" (1801) [W]; Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1979) [CP]. Leading class discussion: Jordan Hanson & Tara Terkildsen.
F 28 Mary Martha Sherwood, from History of the Fairchild Family (1818) [CP]; Robert Southey, "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them" (1799) [W]; Isaac Watts, "Against Idleness and Mischief" (1715) [W]; David Bates, "Speak Gently" (1848) [W]. Group #1's first response paper DUE by today.
M 31 Roger Lancelyn Green, "The Golden Age of Children's Books" (1962); Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), through Chapter 9.
February W 2 Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, to end; Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), through Chapter 6; Anderson & Apseloff, excerpt from Nonsense Literature for Children: Aesop to Seuss (1989) [CP]. Leading class discussion: Ashley Cook & Alicia Scully.
F 4 Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, to end; Wim Tigges, "An Anatomy of Nonsense" (1987) [CP]. Group #2's first response paper DUE by today.
M 7 Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks (1965) [R]; selections from Peter and Iona Opie, I Saw Esau (1992) [CP]; Susan Stewart, excerpt from Nonsense: Aspects of Intertextuality in Folklore and Literature (1979) [CP]; Nel, "U.S. Laureate of Nonsense: A Seussian Poetics" from Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004) [CP].
W 9 Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957); Selma G. Lanes, “Seuss for the Goose Is Seuss for the Gander” (1971) [CP]; Alison Lurie, “The Cabinet of Dr. Seuss” (1990) [CP].
F 11 Seuss, The Cat in the Hat; Betty Mensch and Allan Freeman, “Getting to Solla Sollew: The Existential Politics of Dr. Seuss” (1987) [CP]; Louis Menand, “Cat People: What Dr. Seuss Really Taught Us” (2002) [CP]. Group #1's second response paper DUE by today.
Picture Books
  M 14 Moebius, "Introduction to Picture Book Codes" (1986) [CP]; Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) [R]; Bernard Waber, Ira Sleeps Over (1975) [R]; Maurice Sendak, "Calecott Medal Acceptance" (1964) [CP].
W 16 Nodelman, "Decoding the images: how picture books work" [PH]; John Burnigham, Mr. Gumpy's Outing (1970) [R]; Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji (1981) [R]; Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon (1947) [R]; Ian Falconer, Olivia (2000) [R].
F 18 Heinrich Hoffmann, "The Story of the Inky Boys" from Struwwelpeter (1845) [CP]; Helen Bannerman, Little Black Sambo (1899) [R]; Michelle Martin, "'Hey, Who's the Kid with the Green Umbrella?': A Reevaluation of Little Black Sambo and the Black-a-moor," from Brown Gold: Milestones of African-American Children's Picture Books, 1845-2002 (2004) [CP].
  M 21 Bannerman, Little Black Sambo [R]; Robin Bernstein, "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race" (2009) [CP]. Group #2's second response paper DUE by today.
W 23 Janette Sebring Lowrey, The Poky Little Puppy, illus. Gustaf Tenggren (1942) [R]; Gertrude Crampton, Scuffy the Tugboat, illus. Tibor Gergely (1946) [R]; Zohar Shavit, Ch. 3 ("The Ambivalent Status of Texts") from The Poetics of Children's Literature (1986) [CP]; Julie Sinn Cassidy, "Transporting Nostalgia: Little Golden Books as Souvenirs of Childhood" (2008) [CP].
F 25 David Rudd, "Theorising and theories: How does children's literature exist?" [PH]; Anthony Browne, Voices in the Park (1998) [R].
M 28 Jon Scieszka, "Design Matters" (Horn Book, March 1998) <> [W]; Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) [R]; David Wiesner, The Three Pigs (2001) [R]. Leading class discussion: Sara Austin & Shaun Baker.
March W 2 Ann Jonas, Round Trip (1983) [R]; Chris Van Allsburg, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984); David Macaulay, Black and White (1990) [R]; W.J.T. Mitchell "Metapictures" from Picture Theory (1994) [CP]; Philip Nel, "Keyword: Postmodernism" (2011) [CP2].
F 4 Midterm Exam.
  M 7 three comics (Bushmiller, Schulz, Rabin); excerpt from Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (1993); Mark Newgarden & Paul Karasik, "How to Read Nancy" (1988); Robert C. Harvey, "How Comics Came to Be" (2009) [all CP2].
W 9 Shaun Tan, The Arrival (2006). Leading class discussion: Kelsey Vetter & Tareneh Matloob.
F 11 Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007), through Part One (p. 254). Leading class discussion: Rachelle Doan & Charlene Edwards.
M 14 Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, to end. Group #1's third response paper DUE by today.
W 16 M.H. Abrams, "Realism" (1993) [CP2]; Felicity A. Hughes, "Children's Literature: Theory and Practice" (1978) [CP2]; Elizabeth Segal, "Children's Literature: Notes from a Historical Perspective" (1980) [CP2].
F 18 L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908), through Chapter 15; John Stephens, "Analyzing texts: linguistics and stylistics" (2005) [PH]. Leading class discussion: Maura Wery & Sarah Nelson. Group #2's third response paper DUE by today.
M 28 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, through Chapter 26; Gavin White, “Falling out of the Haystack: L. M. Montgomery and Lesbian Desire” (2001) [CP2].
  W 30 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, to end; Lissa Paul, "Feminism Revisited" [PH]. Group #1's fourth response paper DUE by today.
April F 1 Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989). Leading class discussion: Brooke Schultz, Kate Ehmke, & Alicia Dodson.
M 4 Block, Weetzie Bat; Jan Susina, "The Rebirth of the Postmodern Flâneur: Notes on the Postmodern Landscape of Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat" (2002) [CP2]. See also: Francesca Lia Block: Web Resources.
Psychoanalytic Approaches
W 6 Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" (1919); Hamida Bosmaijain, "Reading the unconscious: pyschoanalytical criticism" (2005) [PH]. Group #2's fourth response paper DUE by today.
F 8 Neil Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Richard Gooding, “‘Something Very Old and Very Slow’: Coraline, Uncanniness, and Narrative Form” (2008) [CP2]. Leading class discussion: Lindsey Givens & Emily Midkiff.
M 11 Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Sarah Gilead, "Magic Abjured: Closure in Children's Fantasy Fiction" (1991) [CP2]; Elizabeth Parsons, Naarah Sawers, Kate McInally, “The Other Mother: Neil Gaiman's Postfeminist Fairytales” (2008) [CP2].
W 13 Bring in three copies of the one-page abstract for your final paper.
F 15 J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906, rev. of The Little White Bird, 1902); Jacqueline Rose, Introduction to The Strange Case of Peter Pan (1984) [CP2]. Leading class discussion: Jacob Euteneuer & Michael Sender.
M 18 J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (1911), through Chapter 9; Rose, Chapter 1, The Strange Case of Peter Pan [CP2]. Group #1's fifth response paper DUE by today.
W 20 Barrie, Peter and Wendy, to end; Rose, Chapter 3 and Conclusion, The Strange Case of Peter Pan [CP2]; David Rudd and Anthony Pavlik, "The (Im)Possibility of Children's Fiction: Rose Twenty-Five Years On," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 35.3 (Fall 2010): 223-229 [CP].
F 22 Marilyn Nelson, A Wreath for Emmett Till (2005); Larry Siems, Vera B. Williams, Wendy Lamb, Patricia Reilly Giff, Adam Rapp, Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Paul Curtis, Joyce Carol Oates, “Dark Realities: What Can’t Be Said in Children’s Books” (2004). [CP2]. Leading class discussion: Jeff Lanter & Danielle Payne.
M 25 Nelson, A Wreath for Emmett Till; Anne Scott MacCleod, "Writing Backward: Modern Models in Historical Fiction" (1998) [CP2]; Nina Lindsay, "Packaging the Past" (1999) [CP2]. Group #2's fifth response paper DUE by today.
W 27 Nelson, A Wreath for Emmett Till; Karen Chandler, "Preserving 'that Racial Memory': Figurative Language, Sonnet Sequence, and the Work of Remembrance in Marilyn Nelson's A Wreath for Emmett Till" (2008) [CP]; Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999), through p. 136.
F 29 Myers, Monster (1999), to end. Paper Due.
Childhood Revisited
May M 2 Guus Kuijer, The Book of Everything, trans. John Nieuwenhuizen (2006).
  W 4 Kuijer, The Book of Everything; John Morgenstern, "The Fall Into Literacy," from Playing with Books: A Study of the Reader as a Child (2009) [CP 2].
F 6 Conclusion and Review.
W 11 Take-Home Final Exam: Due in my office by 1:50 pm.


for English 703: Critical Approaches to Children's Literature

  • Further Reading
    • Graff and Birkenstein, "They Say / I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (2006)

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