‘Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century 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.

‘Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Children’s Literature’ Reading List

This module serves two main functions: firstly, to familiarize students with important children’s fiction from the 18th and 19th century, including works by Charles Kingsley, Catherine Sinclair, Lewis Carroll, Charlotte Yonge, and Mrs. Ewing.

Secondly, the module addresses theoretical questions to do, for instance, with genre, gender, and class, as well with literary history and period-definitions.

The module therefore aims not just to discuss texts, but also to ask: why these texts? and what is ‘history’? and, perhaps most importantly, what (if any) are the relationships between ‘history’ and the reading of texts?

In other words: this course aims not to teach students what ‘eighteenth or nineteenth century children’s literature’ is, but to ask what it means to group texts together by ‘period’, if, how, and why, that affects critical languages and strategies, and how students might address these questions and issues in their own criticism.

To help consider all these issues, also in possible later PhD research, part of this module introduces students to bibliographical and archive research-skills through the use of the Nineteenth-Century Special Collection of Children’s Books (held at the University’s Museum of Rural Life archive location). NB: during Covid-19 lockdown, we continued to do this work on the module, but instead used online, digitised archival material, such as that available at the Maxwell Library of Bridgewater State University Digitised Collections of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Especially useful from the Maxwell Library list is the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida.

In the later stages of the module, students form smaller groups, and, under guidance from the module tutor and the archivists, choose material from the Special Collection archives (or the digitised resources listed above) themselves on which to prepare a seminar presentation to their group.

Students wishing to prepare for the course could read Rousseau’s Emile in advance. They can also pre-read the passage from The Fairchild Family that is provided on the link below.

Texts read on the course (not necessarily in this order) may include:

J. J. Rousseau, Emile
Mrs Sherwood, The Fairchild Family (for this seminar please read pages 86-90 on the facsimile copy on this website-link)
Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies
Mrs Ewing, The Cuckoo Clock
Catherine Sinclair, Holiday House
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Charlotte Yonge, The Daisy Chain
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
Rudyard Kipling, Stalky & Co and/or The Jungle Books
Edward Lear’s poetry (selected).