Philip Nel > Courses > English 703: Critical Approaches to Literature (Spring 2017)

English 703: Critical Approaches to Children's Literature
Required Texts
Schedule of Assignments
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: M 3:30-5:00 & by appointment.
MWF 1:30 - 2:20 p.m.
EH 021
Last updated Thursday, April 13, 2017

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 100 Daily.
Leading Class Discussion 50 See schedule.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, March 1.
Abstract 100 In class, April 10; workshop abstract in class, March 27.
Keywords Paper 200 In class, April 28; choose word by March 6; workshop paper in class, April 17.
Final Exam 200 Email or submit via Canvas no later than May 12, 1:40pm Central Time.
Total 1000  

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

       Paper: The paper and abstract must be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled together — if you are handing in hard copies (preferred). If you are submitting the document electronically, then the staples are optional. 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.

Kansas State 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 abstract or keyword 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. 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). 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.
        You may use a portable computer or tablet for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you find yourself unable to focus on note-taking and class discussion (the temptations technology offers are many and varied, I know), then you must switch to manual note-taking. 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.

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. 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. If you do not receive a reply in 24 hours, please follow up —  I get a lot of email and often fall behind.

       I doubt you need this advice, but Wellesley has great advice on "How to Email Your Professor."

Kansas State University's Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities:

Students with disabilities who need classroom accommodations, access to technology, or information about emergency building/campus evacuation processes should contact the Student Access Center and/or their instructor.  Services are available to students with a wide range of disabilities including, but not limited to, physical disabilities, medical conditions, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety.  If you are a student enrolled in campus/online courses through the Manhattan or Olathe campuses, contact the Student Access Center at, 785-532-6441; for Salina campus, contact the Academic and Career Advising Center at, 785-826-2649.

Kansas State University's Statement Defining Expectations for Classroom Conduct:

All student activities in the University, including this course, are governed by the Student Judicial Conduct Code as outlined in the Student Governing Association By Laws, Article V, Section 3, number 2. Students who engage in behavior that disrupts the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.


Kansas State University's Academic Freedom Statement:

Kansas State University is a community of students, faculty, and staff who work together to discover new knowledge, create new ideas, and share the results of their scholarly inquiry with the wider public. Although new ideas or research results may be controversial or challenge established views, the health and growth of any society requires frank intellectual exchange. Academic freedom protects this type of free exchange and is thus essential to any university's mission.

Moreover, academic freedom supports collaborative work in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge in an environment of inquiry, respectful debate, and professionalism. Academic freedom is not limited to the classroom or to scientific and scholarly research, but extends to the life of the university as well as to larger social and political questions. It is the right and responsibility of the university community to engage with such issues.


Schedule of Assignments
Subject to change.

[C] = Canvas. [K] = Keywords for Children's Literature. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [W] = Web (if a journal, you'll need to be logged in or log in via Hale).

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

January W 18 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); Mathieu Lavoie, Toto's Apple (2016). Note: Please read the Peter Hunt essay for today. I don't expect you to have read the others. I'll bring these books with me.
F 20 What is a Keyword? Raymond Williams, "Table of Contents" and "Introduction" (1976/1983) [C]; Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, "Introduction" (2014), "Table of Contents" [use "ESSAYS" tab at left] (2014) [W]; Burgett, "Sex" (2007/2014) [W]; Nel & Paul, "Introduction" [K]; Kenneth Kidd, "Classic" [K]; Lissa Paul, "Literacy" [K]; Karen Sanchez-Eppler, "Childhood" [K].
Orality and Didacticism
M 23 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) [C]; excerpt from Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood (1993) [C]; Yvonne Verdier, "Little Red Riding Hood in Oral Translation" (1997) [C].
W 25 Jean-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, “Beauty and the Beast” (1756) [C]; Giovanni Francesco Straparola, “The Pig King" [C]; Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” (1812); Maria Tatar (1999) [C]; Walter J. Ong, Chapter 3 ("Some psychodynamics of orality") from Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982) [C]; Beverly Lyon Clark, "Audience" [K].Group #1's first response paper DUE by today.
  F 27 Mitzi Myers, "Impeccable Governesses, Rational Dames, and Moral Mothers" (1986) [C]; Mary Wollestonecraft, "Moral Conversations and Stories, Chapter 1" from Original Stories from Real Life (1788) [W]; Maria Edgeworth, "The Story of the Purple Jar" (1801) [W]; Mary Martha Sherwood, "Fatal Effects of Disobedience to Parents" from History of the Fairchild Family (1818) [W]; Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1979) [C]; Richard Flynn, "Culture" [K]; Elisabeth Rose Gruner, "Education" [K].
M 30 Roger Lancelyn Green, "The Golden Age of Children's Books" (1962) [C]; Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), through Chapter 9; Diedre Baker, "Fantasy" [K]; Angela Sorby, "Golden Age" [K]. Leading class discussion: Kirsten Hermreck & Niki Bernett..
February W 1 Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, to end; Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), through Chapter 6; Anderson & Apseloff, "Some Definitions of Nonsense," excerpt from Nonsense Literature for Children: Aesop to Seuss (1989) [C]; Michael Heyman and Kevin Shortsleve, "Nonsense" [K]. Group #2's first response paper DUE by today.
F 3 Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, to end; Wim Tigges, "An Anatomy of Nonsense" (1987) [C]; David Rudd, "Theory" [K].
M 6 Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks (1965) [R]; selections from Peter and Iona Opie, I Saw Esau (1992) [C]; Susan Stewart, excerpt from Nonsense: Aspects of Intertextuality in Folklore and Literature (1979) [C]; Nel, "U.S. Laureate of Nonsense: A Seussian Poetics" from Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004) [C]; Margaret Meek, "Reading" [K]. Group #1's second response paper DUE by today.
Picture Books
  W 8 Moebius, "Introduction to Picture Book Codes" (1986) [C]; Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) [R]; Bernard Waber, Ira Sleeps Over (1975) [R]; Maurice Sendak, "Calecott Medal Acceptance" (1964) [C]; Philip Pullman, "Intention" [K].
F 10 Perry Nodelman, "Decoding the images: how picture books work" (2005) [C]; 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: Kathleen Wallace & Jenny Tammera.
M 13 Heinrich Hoffmann, "The Story of the Inky Boys" from Struwwelpeter (1845) [C]; 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) [C]; David Booth, "Censorship" [K]; Mari J. Matsuda et al, introduction to Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (1993) [C]. Group #2's second response paper DUE by today.
  W 15 Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney, Sam and the Tigers (1996) [R]; Fred Marcellino, The Story of Little Babaji (1999) [R]; Martin, "African-American" [K]; Katharine Capshaw Smith, "Race" [K]; Clare Bradford, "Postcolonial" [K].
F 17 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) [R]; David Macaulay, Black and White (1990) [R]; Emily Gravett, Wolves (2005) [R]; W.J.T. Mitchell "Metapictures" from Picture Theory (1994) [C]; Kimberley Reynolds, "Modernism" [K]; Philip Nel, "Postmodernism" (2011) [K]. Leading class discussion: Allyson Koziol & Gavin Colton.
Psychoanalytic Approaches
M 20 Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" (1919) [C]; Hamida Bosmaijain, "Reading the unconscious: pyschoanalytical criticism" (2005) [C]; Kenneth Kidd, "Maurice Sendak and Picturebook Psychology," from Freud in Oz (2011) [C]. Group #1's third response paper DUE by today.
W 22 Neil Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Richard Gooding, “‘Something Very Old and Very Slow’: Coraline, Uncanniness, and Narrative Form” (2008) [C]. Leading class discussion: Jamie DeTour & Brittany Roberts.
  F 24 Gaiman, Coraline (2002); Sarah Gilead, "Magic Abjured: Closure in Children's Fantasy Fiction" (1991) [C]; Elizabeth Parsons, Naarah Sawers, Kate McInally, “The Other Mother: Neil Gaiman's Postfeminist Fairytales” (2008) [C], Claudia Nelson, "Domestic" [K].
  M 27 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) [C]; Mike Cadden, "Voice" [K]. Leading class discussion: Mandy Moore & Emily Nance.
March W 1 Midterm Exam.
F 3 J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (1911), through Chapter 9; Rose, Chapter 1, The Strange Case of Peter Pan [C]; Marah Gubar, "Innocence" [K]; Sandra Beckett, "Crossover Fiction" [K]. Group #2's third response paper DUE by today.
M 6 Barrie, Peter and Wendy, to end; Rose, Chapter 3 and Conclusion, The Strange Case of Peter Pan [C]; 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) [W]; Marah Gubar, "Risky Business: Talking About Children in Children's Literature Criticism," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 38.4 (Winter 2013) [W]: Choose your Keyword by today.
Racial Innocence
  W 8 Robin Bernstein, Introduction and Chapter 1 of Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (2011).
  F 10 Bannerman, Little Black Sambo [R]; E. W. Kemble, A Coon Alphabet (1898) [W]; Bernstein, Chapter 2 from Racial Innocence; Bernstein, "Toys Are Good for Us: Why We Should Embrace the Historical Integration of Children's Literature, Material Culture, and Play," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 38.4 (Winter 2013) [W].
M 13 Johnny Gruelle, original version of "Raggedy Ann and the Washing" chapter (1918) [C]; Bernstein, Chapter 4 from Racial Innocence. Leading class discussion: _______________ & _______________.
W 15 Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, All-American Boys (2015), through "Monday" (p. 162); Christopher Myers, "Young Dreamers," The Horn Book (6 Aug. 2013); Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Reparations for Ferguson," The Atlantic (18 Aug. 2014). Group #1's fourth response paper DUE by today.
  F 18 Reynolds and Kiely, All-American Boys, to end; Claudia Rankine, "The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning" (New York Times, 2015) [W]; Carol Anderson, "White Rage" (from Jesmyn Ward, ed.,The Fire This Time, 2016) [C].
  M 27 Bring in three copies of the one-page abstract.
Realisms: Quotidian, Magical, and Fantastic
W 29 M.H. Abrams, "Realism" (1993) [C]; Felicity A. Hughes, "Children's Literature: Theory and Practice" (1978) [C]; Elizabeth Segal, "Children's Literature: Notes from a Historical Perspective" (1980) [C]; Joseph Thomas, "Aesthetics" [K]. Group #2's fourth response paper DUE by today.
F 31 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) [C]; Cathryn Mercier, "Realism" [K]; Elizabeth Bullen, "Ideology" [K]. Leading class discussion: Roxana Loza & Corinne Matthews.
April M 3 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, through Chapter 26; Gavin White, “Falling out of the Haystack: L. M. Montgomery and Lesbian Desire” (2001) [C]; Erica Hateley, "Gender" [K]. Group #1's fifth response paper DUE by today.
W 5 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, to end; Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, "Girlhood" [K]; Michele Ann Abate, "Tomboy" [K].
F 7 Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989); Mallan, "Queer" [K]; Mavis Reimer, "Home" [K]; Michael Joseph, "Liminality" [K]. Leading class discussion: Jonathan Blake & Catherine Williams.
M 10 Block, Weetzie Bat; Jan Susina, "The Rebirth of the Postmodern Flâneur: Notes on the Postmodern Landscape of Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat" (2002) [C]. See also: Francesca Lia Block: Web Resources. Abstract Due.
  W 12 Daniel Jose Older, Shadowshaper, through Chapter 22. Zetta Elliott, "Decolonizing the Imagination" (Horn Book, 2010)
F 14 Older, Shadowshaper, to end.Group #2's fifth response paper DUE by today.
M 17 Bring in three copies of your Keywords paper.
W 19 three comics (Rabin, Schulz, Thompson); excerpt from Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (1993) [all C]; Mark Newgarden & Paul Karasik, "How to Read Nancy" (1988) [W]; Charles Hatfield, "Graphic Novel" [K]; Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (2015). Group #2's fifth response paper DUE by today.
F 21 Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (2015). Leading class discussion: Curtis Field & Cora Jaeger.
M 24 Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (2007); Eric L. Tribunella, "Boyhood" [K] Lee Talley, "Young Adult" [K].
  W 26 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) [C]; Adrienne Kertzer, "Not Exactly: Intertextual Identities and Risky Laughter in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" (2012) [C]. Leading class discussion: Leif Nelson & Chris Comer.
  F 28 Keywords Essay due. Discussion of Keywords essays.
May M 1 Discussion of Keywords essays. Conclusion and Review.
  W 3 No class. I can't be here. So. Why not work on your Take-Home Final?
F 5 No class. (If you turn in your Take-Home Final early, it will be done early. Yay!)
  F 12 Take-Home Final due. Email or submit via Canvas no later than May 12, 1:40pm Central Time.


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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