Tony Watkins

Graduate Centre for international Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media

The world-famous MA, run by CIRCL, is the oldest accredited degree in the field in Britain, and is taught by specialists in Children’s Literature, whose research is published internationally.

Mr Tony Watkins, BA (Leeds), MEd, PGCE (Bristol),Founder and Past Director of CIRCL and the MA in Children’s Literature

Tony Watkins lectured on Children’s Literature in many parts of the world including the USA, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Russia as well as the UK. Tony sadly passed away on 23-12-2017 after a long illness. We remember him with gratitude and love.

Tony’s publications in the field include:

articles in W. Parsons & R. Goodwin (eds) Landscape and Identity: Perspectives from Australia, 1994

in Maria Nikolajeva (ed.) Aspects and Issues in the History of Children’s Literature, 1995

in Peter Hunt (ed.) Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History, 1995

two articles in Peter Hunt (ed.)The International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature, 1996

the editing and introducing (with Karin Lesnik-Oberstein and Catriona Nicholson) of the January 1999 volume (23.1) of The Lion and the Unicorn on ‘Contemporary British Children’s Literature’

the co-editing (with Dudley Jones) of a collection of essays entitled ‘A Necessary Fantasy?’: The Heroic Figure in Children’s Popular Culture, Garland Press, New York, 2000.

His other research interests included the representations of space (particularly landscape) and time in children’s literature and their relationship to myths of cultural and national identity.

In Memoriam

CIRCL was very sad to announce the passing away on 23-12-2017, after a long illness, of Mr Tony Watkins, the founder of CIRCL and the M(Res) in Children’s Literature.

Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein writes:

I first met Tony Watkins in the early 1990s at a children’s literature conference in Oxford, little imagining that I would be able to join him as a colleague at Reading just a few years later in 1995, when I was appointed as a junior lecturer here. Tony had founded the MA in Children’s Literature in 1984 at the then School of Education at Bulmershe as the first MA in the field to be accredited as a masters degree in literature, rather than in education or librarianship studies (as is still mostly the case world-wide). Tony’s own teaching and research interests were in Cultural Studies, and he was a great admirer of Professor Stuart Hall, the founder of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. Tony was therefore one of the first and main academics to introduce childhood and children’s literature to cultural studies and vice versa. Tony was a wonderful and much-loved teacher, who was known always to ask the most penetrating and crucial questions in the most modest and unassuming ways. At every conference, workshop or presentation those of us who knew him well would wait for the ‘Tony question’ to raise the most important problem or issue. Tony was a great believer in and supporter of the true concept of ‘community’ and his generosity in including absolutely everyone who wished to engage in thinking and learning was remarkable. Tony taught across the world, including spending considerable time as a Visiting Lecturer at the Children’s Literature Research Institute in Osaka, Japan, for instance, and was also a regular teacher at Children’s Literature summer schools in the USA. In 1996 Tony also founded CIRCL: The Centre (now Graduate Centre) for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media, which runs the MA and PhD programmes in Children’s Literature in the department as well as fostering international research in these areas. Both the MA (now M(Res)) in Children’s Literature and CIRCL continue to flourish and I still regularly speak to international scholars who remember Tony and his teaching and research as a major influence and remember him personally with great warmth. Every year since Tony’s formal retirement in 2003 the department has commemorated his achievements with the Tony Watkins Annual Lecture. In 2018, the lecture was given by the Belgian Critical Psychologist Dr Jan De Vos, on how children are construed as subjects in modernity, on May 3rd 2018 as an especial occasion to remember Tony together at this University too.

Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein
Tony Watkins
Tony Watkins Lecture 2003