Academic interest in children’s and young adult literature has really taken off over the last fifty years or so. This is surprising considering the kind of hold our earliest experiences with literature can have on us throughout our adults lives. In this class, we will examine all of the ways these works are attempting to shape or challenge ideologies. We will consider the seemingly simple idea that most “children’s and adolescent” literature is written by an adult. Hmm… what does that mean?
Since this is an introduction to all children’s literature, we will be looking at works from around the world, but the majority will come from British and American traditions. About half of the course will revolve around classics such as Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. For the second half of the class, we will consider works which are not necessarily canonical and sometimes controversial such as Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
Because discussions of children’s and young adult literature can naturally sidetrack anyone into going down memory lane, we will always begin class with a framing idea from a scholar in the children’s literature field – folks like Kenneth Kidd, Perry Nodelman, Roberta Seelinger Trites, and Susan Louise Stewart. This will help us to really dig into each text for more than a memory.