Philip Nel > Courses > English 703: Critical Approaches to Literature (Spring 2013)

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: MWF 2:30-3:20 & by appointment.
MWF 10:30 - 11:20 a.m.
EH 228
Last updated Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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. See schedule for "due by" dates.
Class Participation & 200 Daily.
Message Board Weekly.
Leading Class Discussion 50 See schedule.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, March 11.
Conference Paper 200 In class, April 22; abstract due April 8.
Keywords Paper 200 In class, May 8; choose word by March 25; workshop paper in class, April 26.
Total 1000  

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

       Paper: The papers 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 <>.
        Here is the university's Statement Regarding Academic Honesty: "Kansas State University has an Honor System based on personal integrity, which is presumed to be sufficient assurance that, in academic matters, one's work is performed honestly and without unauthorized assistance. Undergraduate and graduate students, by registration, acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Honor System. The policies and procedures of the Honor System apply to all full and part-time students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses on-campus, off-campus, and via distance learning. The honor system website can be reached via the following URL: . A component vital to the Honor System is the inclusion of the Honor Pledge which applies to all assignments, examinations, or other course work undertaken by students. The Honor Pledge is implied, whether or not it is stated: 'On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work.' A grade of XF can result from a breach of academic honesty. The F indicates failure in the course; the X indicates the reason is an Honor Pledge violation."

        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 (on the first day, you signed up to be in either Group 1 or Group 2). Whatever day you turn it in, a response paper must always 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.

        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.

       I don't know whether or not you need this advice, but Wellesley has great advice on "How to Email Your Professor."

University's Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities: "Any student with a disability who needs a classroom accommodation, access to technology, assistance during an emergency evacuation, or other assistance in this course should contact Disability Support Services and/or the instructor. DSS serves students with a wide range of disabilities including, but not limited to, physical disabilities, sensory impairments, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety." To reach Disability Support Services on the Manhattan campus, contact



Schedule of Assignments
Subject to change.

[W] = Web. [CP] = Class Pack. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [K] = Keywords for Children's Literature.

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

January W 23 Introduction. Peter Hunt, "Children's Literature" [K]; Eve Merriam, The Inner City Mother Goose (1969); Francesco Pittau & Bernadette Gervais, Elephant Elephant: A Book of Opposites (2001). Note: Please read the Peter Hunt essay for today. I don't expect you to have read Merriam or Pittau & Gervais. I'll bring their books with me.
F 25 What is a Keyword? Raymond Williams, "Table of Contents" and "Introduction" (1976/1983) [CP]; Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, "Table of Contents" (2007); Burgett, "Sex" (2007) [CP]; Nel & Paul, "Introduction" [K]; Kenneth Kidd, "Classic" [K]; Lissa Paul, "Literacy" [K].
Orality and Didacticism
M 28 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].
W 30 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]; Beverly Lyon Clark, "Audience" [K].Group #1's first response paper DUE by today.
February F 1 Mitzi Myers, "Impeccable Governesses, Rational Dames, and Moral Mothers" (1986) [CP]; Mary Wollestonecraft, from Moral Conversations and Stories (1788) [CP]; Maria Edgeworth, "The Story of the Purple Jar" (1801) [CP/W]; Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1979) [CP]; Richard Flynn, "Culture" [K]; Elisabeth Rose Gruner, "Education" [K].
M 4 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]; Karen Sanchez-Eppler, "Childhood" [K].
W 6 Roger Lancelyn Green, "The Golden Age of Children's Books" (1962) [CP]; Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), through Chapter 9; Diedre Baker, "Fantasy" [K]; Angela Sorby, "Golden Age" [K]. Leading class discussion: Meredith F. & Kylie K.
F 8 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]; Michael Heyman and Kevin Shortsleve, "Nonsense" [K]. Group #2's first response paper DUE by today.
M 11 Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, to end; Wim Tigges, "An Anatomy of Nonsense" (1987) [CP]; David Rudd, "Theory" [K].
  W 13 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]. Group #1's second response paper DUE by today.
F 15 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]. Louis Menand, “Cat People: What Dr. Seuss Really Taught Us” (2002) [CP]; Margaret Meek, "Reading" [K].
Picture Books
M 18 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]; Philip Pullman, "Intention" [K].
  W 20 Perry Nodelman, "Decoding the images: how picture books work" (2005) [CP]; Nathalie op de Beeck, "Image" [K]; 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]; Mac Barnett et al, "Proclamation!" (2011) [W]. Leading class discussion: Erica Morgenstern & Melissa Hammond.
F 22 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]; David Booth, "Censorship" [K]. Group #2's second response paper DUE by today.
M 25 Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney, Sam and the Tigers (1996); Fred Marcellino, The Story of Little Babaji (1999); Martin, "African-American" [K]; Katharine Capshaw Smith, "Race" [K]; Clare Bradford, "Postcolonial" [K].
W 27 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]; June Cummins, "Marketing" [K].
March F 1 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]. 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]; Kimberley Reynolds, "Modernism" [K]; Philip Nel, "Postmodernism" (2011) [K]. Leading class discussion: Stephanie Hutaff & Andi Parrish.
Psychoanalytic Approaches
  M 4 Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" (1919); Hamida Bosmaijain, "Reading the unconscious: pyschoanalytical criticism" (2005) [CP2]. Group #1's third response paper DUE by today.
  W 6 Neil Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Richard Gooding, “‘Something Very Old and Very Slow’: Coraline, Uncanniness, and Narrative Form” (2008) [CP2]. Leading class discussion: Heather Staton & Cameron Seifert.
F 8 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], Claudia Nelson, "Domestic" [K].
M 11 Midterm Exam.
W 13 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]; Mike Cadden, "Voice" [K]. Leading class discussion: Samantha Owen & Sam Killmeyer.
F 15 J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (1911), through Chapter 9; Rose, Chapter 1, The Strange Case of Peter Pan [CP2]; Marah Gubar, "Innocence" [K]; Sandra Beckett, "Crossover Fiction" [K].Group #2's third response paper DUE by today.
M 25 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]. Choose your Keyword by today.
Racial Innocence
W 27 Robin Bernstein, Introduction and Chapter 1 of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (2011). Group #1's fourth response paper DUE by today.
  F 29 Bannerman, Little Black Sambo [R]; E. W. Kemble, A Coon Alphabet (1898) [W]; Bernstein, Chapter 2 from Racial Innocence.
April M 1 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Chapters 4, 20, and 25 from Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), plus illustrations from each of these three chapters [all W]; Bernstein, Chapter 3 from Racial Innocence. Leading class discussion: Rachel Ohmes & Herditya Widodo.
W 3 Johnny Gruelle; Raggedy Ann Stories (1918/1993); Gruelle, original version of "Raggedy Ann and the Washing" chapter (1918) [CP2]; Bernstein, Chapter 4 from Racial Innocence.
  W 3 4:30 pm, in ECS 017. Robin Bernstein Reading Group (Chapter 2 of Racial Innocence).
F 5 Bernstein, Chapter 5 from Racial Innocence. Special Guest: Robin Bernstein. Group #2's fourth response paper DUE by today.
F 5  4:00 pm, in Leadership Studies Town Hall. Lecture by Robin Bernstein.
M 8 Bring in three copies of the one-page abstract for your conference paper.
W 10 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]; Joseph Thomas, "Aesthetics" [K].
F 12 L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908), through Chapter 15; Mavis Reimer, "A Daughter of the House: Discourses of Adoption in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables" (2011) [CP2]; Cathryn Mercier, "Realism" [K]; Elizabeth Bullen, "Ideology" [K]. Leading class discussion: Allison Shufelt & Elizabeth Rankin.
M 15 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, through Chapter 26; Gavin White, “Falling out of the Haystack: L. M. Montgomery and Lesbian Desire” (2001) [CP2]; Erica Hateley, "Gender" [K]. Group #1's fifth response paper DUE by today.
W 17 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, to end; Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, "Girlhood" [K]; Michele Ann Abate, "Tomboy" [K].
F 19 Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989); Mallan, "Queer" [K]; Mavis Reimer, "Home" [K]. Leading class discussion: Pallabi Gupta & Elizabeth Symm.
M 22 Conference Paper Due.
W 24 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.
F 26 Bring in three copies of your Keywords paper.
M 29 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]; Charles Hatfield, "Graphic Novel" [K]. Group #2's fifth response paper DUE by today.
May W 1 Shaun Tan, The Arrival (2006); Michael Joseph, "Liminality" [K]. Leading class discussion: Elizabeth Thompson & Orlando Dos Reis.
  F 3 Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (2007); Eric L. Tribunella, "Boyhood" [K] Lee Talley, "Young Adult" [K].
M 6 Alexie, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian; Coates, "Identity" [K]; Clare Bradford and Raffaella Baccolini, "Journeying Subjects: Spatiality and Identity in Children's Texts" (2011) [CP2]; Adrienne Kertzer, "Not Exactly: Intertextual Identities and Risky Laughter in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" (2012) [CP2]. Leading class discussion: Meggie Romick & Seely Heck.
  W 8 Keywords Essay due.
F 10 Conclusion and Review.


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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