‘Myth, Folktale and Popular Culture in Children’s Literature’ Reading List

MA Reading Lists

and Course Descriptions

Prospective applicants please note: do see for further information on how and why to apply to the M(Res.) in Children’s Literature at the University of Reading the CIRCL web-page on how to apply.

‘Myth, Folktale and Popular Culture in Children’s Literature’ Reading List

This module begins with the discussion of the oral tradition for children and the place of myth and folktale within it. The first half of the module will concentrate on the folktale and fairy-tale. Topics for discussion will include: the main theories of folktales and fairytales; the work of Perrault and the Grimms; Nineteenth Century fairytales; folktale and women; the way European folktales have been reworked for children in different forms (including the animated films of Disney and others) in this century; and folktales from different parts of the world.
The module will conclude with discussion of different theories of myth and the influence of certain mythical stories or collections of myth on contemporary children’s literature.

In preparation for this first half of the module you may buy the following texts (but please do check with staff in advance as this may change from year to year):

Maria Tatar, The Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Editions) — please note that this is *not* the same text as Tatar’s The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales!

L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (any non-abbreviated edition)

Alan Garner, The Owl Service (any edition)

Please also watch the following films:

The Princess Bride (1987; dir. Rob Reiner)

Shrek (2001, dirs. Vicky Jensen, Andrew Adamson).

The second half of the module aims to examine texts that may, in a variety of ways, be seen as ‘popular’ as well as cover a range of children’s media, including film, radio and television as well as computer and video games, raising questions about how to interpret and analyse such texts. Further, critical works are analysed to see how they define and approach electronic texts, and to consider assumptions they may make about differences in approach to film, radio, television, and ‘book texts’. The implications of these discussions may also be extended to thinking about ‘new media’ (computer games and so on).

Further materials studied may include books published in series (Goosebumps, Babysitters); books marketed by genre (Point Horror); comics, magazines and media.

Through these texts, important questions of critical approach will be raised. These will include questions of value and hierarchy, the construction of ‘authors’ and authority, notions of originality and repetition, ideas of the ‘contemporary’.

Above all, the very idea of the ‘popular’ will be carefully considered. How does it function in existing critical languages? Is it thought a part of, or as apart from, children’s literature? Where would one place Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl? Disputed cases such as these will help to mark out the frontiers of debate.

This suggested outline may be modified to take into account specific interests of the students. The reading list for this course therefore may include the materials mentioned here, with further material selected by, and with, the students.