‘Theory of Children’s Literature’ Reading List
There is no set curriculum, as the course is based on the students’ questions, problems, interests, and ideas. Please note therefore that there is no specific reading you can do to ‘prepare’ for this course of the MA beforehand. If you want to do something, then just read as much (children’s) literature criticism in general as you wish but nobody will be expected to ‘know’ about this necessarily, and we will not be using it on the course in predictable ways!The course aims to cover questions such as: What is ‘children’s literature’? What is the criticism of children’s literature? What kinds of criticism are there and on what assumptions are they based? On the way, students might encounter ideas about: Feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, Psychoanalytic criticism, Queer Theory, Deconstruction, Formalism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism, Post-modernism, Liberal Humanism, Childist Criticism, Cultural Studies.
However, these labels are not used in class: the point of this course is emphatically to THINK and DISCUSS. As such, this course is not a ‘cookbook’ approach to Theory, but an open forum for thinking about how and why – or how and why not – to be (children’s literature) critics. Each student will end up with their own answers to the questions, or with some answers, or with no answers. Please look too at our Other Interesting Sites page, which includes links to major (literary) theory sites!
(C) indicates texts which have often been chosen as a focus for class discussion,
while (D) indicates that selections from this text are available on the University’s “Talis Aspire” online reading list system.
(C)(D) Althusser, Louis, Althusser: A Critical Reader, ed. Gregory Elliott (Blackwell, Oxford, 1994).
Aries, Philippe, Centuries of Childhood (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973/ There are also more recent new editions).
Aristotle, The Poetics of Aristotle, trans. and commentary Stephen Halliwell (Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1987/ There are several other editions, including a Penguin Classics).
(D) Barker, Martin, Comics: Power, Ideology, and the Critics (Manchester Univ. Press, Manchester, 1989).
(D) Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment (Knopf, New York, 1976).
(C)(D) Bruner, Jerome, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1986).
Burman, Erica, Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, London, 1994).
Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, London, 1990).
(D) Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, 1976).
(C)(D) Felman, Shoshana (ed.), Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading Otherwise (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, 1982).
(C)(D) Foster, Shirley and Judy Simons, What Katy Read (Macmillan, London, 1995)
(C) Freud, Sigmund, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, trans. James Strachey (The Penguin Freud Library, 1, ed. James Strachey and Angela Richards)(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1991). 2002: Vintage (Hogarth Press) issued a new paperback edition of the complete works of Freud! Do check the volume numbers however: these differ from the Penguin edition.
(C) Freud, Sigmund, On Sexuality, trans. James Strachey, comp. and ed. Angela Richards (The Penguin Freud Library, 7)(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1991). 2002: Vintage (Hogarth Press) issued a new paperback edition of the complete works of Freud! Do check the volume numbers however: these differ from the Penguin edition.
(C)(D) Hunt, Peter, Criticism, Theory, and Children’s Literature (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1991/ Now out of print).
James, Allison, Chris Jenks, and Alan Prout, Theorizing Childhood (Polity Press, London, 1997).
James, Allison, and Alan Prout, Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (The Falmer Press, London, 2nd ed. 1997).
Jenks, Chris, Childhood (Routledge, London, 1996).
(C) Lodge, David (ed.), Modern Criticism and Theory (Longman, London, 1988. There are also now more recent, updated, editions. This is an anthology that can be used for easy access to essays by, for instance, Wolfgang Iser on ‘A Phenomenological Approach to Reading’, Roland Barthes on ‘The Death of the Author’, and *Michel Foucault on ‘What is an Author?’).
(C)(D) Miller, J. Hillis, ‘Bleak House’, in: Steven Connor (ed.), Charles Dickens, Longman Critical Readers (Longman, London, 1996).
(C)(D) Rose, Jacqueline, The Case of Peter Pan or: The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction(Macmillan Press, London, 1984, repr. 1994/ Now out of print).
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Emile, trans. Barbara Foxley (J. M. Dent and Sons, London, repr. 1950).
Rustin, Margaret, and Michael Rustin, Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction (Verso, London, 1987/ Now out of print).
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Tendencies (Duke Univ. Press, Durham, 1993).
(C) Showalter, Elaine (ed.), The New Feminist Criticism (Virago, London 1986/ now out of print).
(C)(D) Tucker, Nicholas, The Child and the Book: A Psychological and Literary Exploration(Cambridge Univ. Press, first publ. 1981, Canto edition, Cambridge, 1990/ Now out of print).
(D) Walkerdine, Valerie, Schoolgirl Fictions (Verso, London, 1991/ Now out of print).
(C)(D) Wall, Barbara, The Narrator’s Voice: The Dilemma of Children’s Fiction (Macmillan, London. 1991/ Now out of print).
(D) Winnicott, Donald, The Piggle: An Account of the Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Little Girl, ed. Ishak Ramzy (The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London, 1978/ Now out of print).
“I thoroughly enjoyed the course. Always challenging, the course approached and encouraged me to deal with many issues in a rigorously academic way. The work on the course was always innovative and now I can see how the course changed the way I can think about problems and solutions in both academic and non-academic contexts. I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to deal with their own and other’s assumptions in a thoughtful and explorative way."Christopher Johnson, CIRCL MA 2015-2016
'Studying the Children’s Literature MA at Reading was a hugely challenging and rewarding experience for me. When I began the course I had no idea how much my own thinking, reading and argument would develop, so much so that by the end I considered continuing with a PhD. A year after completing the MA I won University Studentship funding to undertake a PhD at CIRCL. I would recommend the Children’s Literature MA to anybody who wishes to develop their critical thinking in any subject area, n...Helen Ainslie, CIRCL MA 2004-5, CIRCL PhD 2006-9
Sara Zadrozny (then: Sara Broad), CIRCL MA 2003-4
'The Reading MA in Children's Literature was a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. The course is intellectually demanding and wide-ranging in its approach to the field of children's literature and its cultural context. Though it focuses on the child in literature it is not restrictive. Many of the issues raised during the course of study are pertinent to all kinds of literature. There are ample opportunities for students to engage in discussion and to make their own con...Hilary Fraser, CIRCL MA 1999-2000, CIRCL PhD 2009
'My undergraduate degree was English Literature with Education Studies at the University of Cambridge and as part of that course I took a module in Children's Literature and absolutely loved it. I therefore decided to research MA courses so that I could further develop my interest. I was advised by my tutors at Cambridge that the most rigorous course was the one offered by the University of Reading and I was thrilled to be offered a place. During the MA the tutors were friendly and support...Hannah Smith (now: Anglin-Jaffe), CIRCL MA 2001-2, CIRCL PhD 2005
The [M(Res)] seminars I attended in CIRCL during my one year’s visit are always inspiring and profound, which have greatly improved my research skills and changed my mindset for doing research in children’s literature. The seminars taught me to find the perspectives in the text we analysed and develop my own judgment, which is the most challenging yet most rewarding thing in doing research. From my own experience as a teacher, such seminars are most effective in forging critical and indepe...XU Derong (David), Associate Professor, Ocean University of China, CIRCL Academic Visiting Fellow, 2016-17
'Studying the MA in Children's Literature was an excellent introduction to and preparation for academic practice and further research as it provided me with an opportunity to engage in discussions surrounding the issues addressed by current researchers during CIRCL seminars in a nurturing and supportive environment.'Catrin Edwards, CIRCL MA 2006-7, CIRCL PhD 2010
Dr Haiya Dong, CIRCL Visiting Scholar 2018-19 Interview
Dr Evdokia (Kia) Michalopoulou, CIRCL MA, CIRCL PhD
'I gained much more than I had expected from the MA. The course was not just about children's literature; it led me to reconsider the way I read, think, and argue. It prepared me for my PhD research and had an influence on my whole life. I can sincerely say that the MA in Children's Literature at Reading is worth attending, even if you need to travel all the way from the other side of the earth (which is more or less what I did, as an international student).'Yuko Ashitagawa, CIRCL MA 2001-2, CIRCL PhD 2002-5
'The Children’s Literature MA has aided my development of extensive academic skills and has introduced me to complex and fascinating theoretical approaches, which can be used to question supposedly obvious or accepted ideas encountered not just in Children’s Literature but across all types of literature. However, I also feel the MA has provided me with some essential skills including problem-identifying and solving by working out the implications and effects of the claims made by others, ...Gemma Budd, CIRCL MA 2010-11
My one year’s visit in CIRCL is the most rewarding academic experience that I have ever had. I found the [M(Res.)] seminars very stimulating. With “positive reinforcement”, all the participants are encouraged and involved. I am always encouraged and inspired by the discussions that were held in the seminars, which are though-provoking and very interactive, heated sometimes yet always in a very pleasant and harmonious atmosphere. I am greatly indebted to Karin, Neil and Sue for their wonder...JIANG Jianli (Tina), Associate Professor, Qingdao Technological University, China, CIRCL Academic Visiting Fellow 2016-17
'With great support from the tutors and friends I have had a wonderful year in exploring and reconsidering the way I have been thinking all my life. In many ways it is my personal journey during which I have learnt a lot, not only about how to (or not to) find an answer but also about how to raise a question. As an international student I would like to say that the MA is very challenging, yet very liberating.'Sireethorn (Pam) Simawathna, CIRCL MA 2012-13
Lisa Stallard, CIRCL MA 2011-12