An Introduction to Children's Literature, 1800-1950

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Module code


  • Level 1
  • Semester 1
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • Evening classes, Thursday 1800-2000


This module will introduce students to a critical study of children’s literature. Each week will cover important themes in key primary texts that signify ways in which the genre has developed throughout the centuries. The recommended reading and critical sources attached to each week will introduce students to the wider debates surrounding each theme from theorists and critics to teachers and philosophers. The assessment will comprise of critical essays and a module presentation. The essays will allow the students to reflect on what they have learned and will develop their skills in critical analysis and theory. The module presentation will take place throughout the semester, offering each student the opportunity to select a text on which they wish to present. This form of assessment will isolate one particular critical theme for the student (thereby demonstrating their developing knowledge on the area) whilst enhancing their presentation skills in a productive and supportive environment.


Lauren Christie


There will be eleven two-hour evening seminars for this module.


The assessment criteria are as follows:

  • Two x 1,000 word essays (45% each)
  • Presentation (10%)


The module will act as an introduction to the critical field of children’s literature, isolating texts from 1800-1950. The layout reflects a 12-week long semester, and teaching will be in the form of weekly 2 hour seminars, 2 essays and a module presentation. Each week students will analyse the primary text in conjunction with recommended background literature in order to gain a fully comprehensible understanding of the topic. The unique nature of this genre is the ability to appeal to both children and adults, with often a striking difference in the meaning each readership will take from the text. This course will examine a selection of texts that are crucial in reflecting different messages, and which cover issues such as cultural anxiety, historical events and political structure. The course will introduce students to literary theories including cultural studies, gender and pedagogical theory. There will also be an underlying focus on Gothic tropes. Authorship and adaptation. This combination of critical and textual analysis, literary theory and background research will equip the students for further study in both contemporary children’s literature and English studies.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. Knowledge and understanding
    Upon completion of the module students will be able to:
    • Recognise shifting historical, political and cultural issues present in the critical study of children’s literature
    • Demonstrate an ability to isolate issues in texts that are intended for children, and those that are simultaneously addressing an adult audience as a critique of wider political or cultural tensions.
    • Demonstrate a basic understanding of critical theory relevant to different texts and how to apply this to a literary analysis argument.
  2. Subject-specific practical and intellectual skills and attributes
    Upon completion of the module students will be able to:
    • Critically identify and analyse political, social and cultural concerns as reflected in children’s literature. This will include techniques present in fairy tales to instil moral instruction, ways in which the author employs and urges development of imaginative skills to construct new worlds and political structure as a reflection of reality.
  3. Transferable, employability and enterprise skills and attributes
    Upon completion of the module students will be able to:
    • Write a compelling and analytical close reading essay based on themes identified on the course, primary and secondary reading.
    • Contribute to peer support and group work activities.
    • Presenting critical research in front of a group of peers.