About this course

What is children's literature? Who does it speak to, and what images of childhood, adolescence (and adulthood) does it portray?

This course explores the representation of childhood, through a critical and theoretical examination of children's literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Beginning with some models from the early twentieth century - The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Peter Pan by JM Barrie and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - we will consider influential children's books for a range of ages, from picture books to young adult fiction. The reading list will include the work of writers such as CS Lewis and Roald Dahl, as well as more recent authors, such as Philip Pullman, David Almond and JK Rowling.

The course will be shaped by theoretical approaches to children's literature, and will engage with the importance of narrative voice, the relationship between fantasy and realism, and debates over whether children's books are for enlightenment or entertainment. Who is 'the child' of children's literature, and to what extent do children's authors challenge expected adult/child power structures? What do children's books say about identity in the contemporary world?

The course includes a field trip to visit the Kilns, CS Lewis' home, and to places in Oxford connected to the lives of other writers studied.


Subject Areas

Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.